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The Gulf Between Writers and Editors

My Clients
I write for several online clients –– Demand Media Studios, Bright Hub and Constant Content. I also have several private sites (WordPress, HubPages and Triond).

My primary client is DMS. I have been writing for them for just over three years and have built up a hefty writing portfolio, to include LiveStrong, eHow, eHow Personal Finance, Local.com, Answerbag and WhiteFence. I have never edited for DMS, although I am considered a backup editor.  I am also a community moderator, which is a volunteer position.

New Developments
Las Friday (June 24), DMS announced a “CE Feedback tool” that writers can choose (or not choose) to use to provide feedback to the editorial staff members on several points. Since Friday, the forums have been active with threads about CEs, the drawbacks of the feedback tool and discussions of threads a few CEs have participated in, speaking in negative tones about the writers they edit. I suspected, but was not sure, this was happening. Now that it has been confirmed on a non-DMS forum, writers (and CEs) are arguing and saying, in effect, “he said, she said.”

Reactions
To put this new development into greater perspective, DMS put into effect a writer’s “Quality Improvement Tool,” or “QuIT” for short. I can’t go into detail about this, but writers are being referred to editorial for additional attention and assistance.

The two tools are as different as sugar is from salt. Yes, the programs come from DMS and they focus on both groups. That’s where the similarity ends. Just like salt is salty and sugar is sweet, one tool focuses on writers who are struggling with various aspects of DMS’ writing guidelines; the CE feedback tool is intended for –– feedback.

Much of the arguments center on the beliefs of some CEs: writers should not evaluate writers on some issues. Other arguments focus on the different sets of skills required for writing and editing. To be fair, DMS has CEs who also write for the company. These CEs have seen and experienced both sides of the fence. good and bad. Some CEs are concerned that some writers are going to use the feedback tool in a vindictive “I’m gonna get back at you” way. No doubt, some will. Hopefully, the PTB (powers that be) have policies and procedures in place to either prevent or deal with abusive use of the new tool.

Because writers and CEs are limited by DMS policy in their ability and mode of communication regarding articles, writers feel constrained. CEs are hidden behind a veil of anonymity  –– for good reason. Some writers who received in-depth rewrites in the past have threatened the CEs who edited their articles. DMS responded by making each CE anonymous to the writers. (The only writers who know who has edited their work are the LiveStrong writers –– and they only find out when the article is published. If the article is rejected, writers don’t know who edited their work.)

Writers have been clamoring for a way of communicating, preferably with CEs, regarding their work (why they chose the point of view they used, why they used the references they used). The writers do have a comment box where they can, and should, communicate with the CEs. Some use it and others don’t. That box comes up on the final preview page, making it difficult for some to remember points they want to make to the CEs.

The community moderators have been busy this weekend, monitoring and commenting in the threads about the new feedback tool and the CEs. The next few weeks are going to be an eye-opening time –– if we are allowed to keep and use this tool.

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Inside the Day-to-Day Life of a Freelance Writer

Monday Through Friday
As a freelance writer, Jeannie maintains a strict daily work schedule. She isn’t so strict and inflexible that she can’t handle unexpected emergencies, but she has learned that discipline is key to earning.

She wakes up to the sound of her radio alarm. While she’s not up as early as those who work for “brick and mortar” employers, she makes it a daily practice to be up before 6:30. She feeds her cats, makes her bed, exercises, makes two cups of coffee, then takes care of her email. She dresses for her day, sometimes in jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt and, on other days, in more professional clothing.

Breakfast

As she’s drinking coffee, she reads and deletes or saves the emails that have come in overnight –– her practice is to get through it early because she gets, on average, 20 a day. It’s easier to deal with the overnight emails, then, as others come in during the day, she deals with them on work breaks.

After breakfast, Jeannie takes care of a single household chore before settling down to writing. Again, she has a daily and weekly schedule, which enables her to take care of the house and the necessity to earn.

Writing

At approximately 9 a.m., Jeannie gets a bottle of water and a quick breakfast, then settles down to her first article of the day. Her research for each article is already done. As she is claiming and accepting titles from various clients, she completes her research, finding acceptable websites or books from which she can draw sources, quotes and cite information. She strives to write one article in approximately 45 minutes to one hour, which means she should be able to write between seven and nine articles a day, depending on which client or publisher she is writing for.

Clients

Jeannie writes for online sites like Bright Hub, Demand Media Studios, Writers Research Group, Constant Content and Writers Access. She does not write for every one of these sites. Instead, she has applied with, and been accepted for just a few. She also has writing/blog accounts with sites like Triond, WordPress and HubPages.

Because Jeannie spent several years working for various brick-and-mortar employers, she is used to sound, conversation, ringing phones, whirring copiers, slamming file drawers and the interruptions of coworkers. She can’t work in silence any more, so she has the sound of her television to help her focus on her work.

By 1 p.m., Jeannie is hungry and takes a quick lunch break. As she’s munching, she browses around the forums of one of her clients. She interacts with some of her colleagues in the forums, sending and receiving occasional private messages, or PMs.

More Writing

Apple Desktop Computer

After lunch, which usually lasts about half an hour, Jeannie’s back at work, tackling more articles. By this time, she has written anywhere between 3 and 4 articles, depending on how much research each title requires.

Jeannie tries to be finished with her writing by 6:30, so she can work on a blog entry, then relaxing with a television show or one of her hobbies.

She sometimes takes a break to take care of personal business –– paying a bill, getting allergy shots, buying groceries or picking up prescriptions.

At the end of the day, Jeannie has written, on average, anywhere between six and nine articles. As an independent contractor, she is responsible for 100 percent of her income, and is always looking for new clients.

Tomorrow will be a new day, and Jeannie faces new titles, new topics and new research.

The Pull Between Freelance Earning and Relaxation

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write until a couple of minutes ago. I spent all day long on my working writing (Demand Media Studios, adjusting my writing schedule at Bright Hub, my book and now, here for WordPress). It’s just after 10 at night –– and I started at about 9 this morning. Took a short break to go to the store for some food we needed.

As a freelance writer, independent contractor and self-employed business woman, I am always busy. I write six, sometimes seven days a week, depending on how my monthly earnings are growing. My goal, after earning badly needed money for several things I am working toward, is to cut down to 6 days a week, take Sunday off, then within the next year, reserve Saturday for my book, crafting, relaxing and friends.

My earnings fluctuate wildly, depending on several factors. These include the availability of titles within my areas of knowledge/expertise, and even some that are just a little beyond those areas. Another factor is technical glitches, such as site crashes or inability of the CEs to access waiting articles.

I was just invited to write for Local.com and WhiteFence, two new DMS publishers. WhiteFence articles are actually moving fairly quickly while Local.com articles are moving. Very. Slowly. It’s a new publisher, so the number of writers and CEs assigned there is still low. Everyone is still getting comfortable with the guidelines and expectations.

Earlier this year, I worked on the photo audit team at DMS. Earnings were fantastic. I earned my highest monthly total ever, whether self-employed or traditionally employed. I’m trying to get back into that, obviously.

I have been approached by a publishing company owner to edit some manuscripts that will be ready for copy editing in the next few months. It’s something completely new to me, but it’s another learning opportunity.

Google’s Panda and Panda 2 wreaked havoc on my Bright Hub page views and earnings. Pre-Panda and pre-Panda 2, I was moving up in page views every month. March was my highest month ever, with over 7,000 page views. Now? I’m lucky to get 2,500. I was following editorial direction in keywording. Everyone, whether writer, CE or company executive, learned from the drop in page views. Bright Hub has since completely revamped the writing process and channels. I am still in the Health channels, but those have been moved to an outside site. I’m writing for Education/Library/Books, Housecleaning/Crafts and Parenting as well.

Even there, Panda has exerted its effect: The crafts and books channels are now editorially managed. For my crafts articles, I have to take pictures of the craft I am making. It’s a moot point, actually. Panda has forced a reduction in the number of writing opportunities every month. Where I could claim 10 at a time from one channel, now I can claim two or three titles.

I am always looking for new clients. I’m signed up with WritersAccess and I have been applying for casting calls.

Why am I doing all of this? I am trying to find the kinds of opportunities that, while I will still be working hard, I’ll also be working smarter. Rather than $20 or $15 per title, I’m aiming for the $100 per article payments. Multiple articles per month.

Where does the relaxation, rest and hobbies come in? Where indeed? My goal is to stop the work writing every day between 6 and 7 p.m. Once I finish for the day, my plan is to spend an hour an evening writing my book.

After all of the writing (work and book) is done, the next part of my evening would be spent reading, watching a television program, then either crocheting or cross stitching. I have a scarf, sweater and blanket I need to finish or get started. It’s time to think of the Christmas gifts for my family (yes, in June. I make my gifts and I have a large family).

Freelancer put so much energy into getting their businesses off the ground, they forget about “me time.” A friend of mine finds this necessary. Her “me time” activities are reading, making and eating a chocolate shake or going for a walk with her husband.

Putting so many hours in the day into writing is good — up to a point. (I passed that point about 3 hours ago.) I know what my healthy balance is; I need to get it back again.

Freelancers, Hobbies and Preventing Burnout

The Business of Freelancing

Freelancers (writing, accountants, graphic designers, personal shoppers, counselors, organizers) give themselves a big opportunity when they decide to start working for themselves. Freelancers also take a huge risk, financially. If they do not have employment outside the home, the responsibility is 100 percent upon them for success –– or failure. Most self-employed people realize this and put many hours into their businesses every week, sometimes more than the usual 40 they would work if they were to be working for someone else.

Setting Up a Workable Work Schedule

Focusing on an individual freelancer –– while it is good to be focused on making her business grow, her efforts will be useless if she does not pay attention to her mental health. She could push herself to the point that she can’t work and bring money in. What should she do to meet two seemingly opposite goals?

First, she should map out a reasonable work schedule that allows her to focus on working during the day. This schedule should allow her to take care of errands that she can’t complete outside working hours, such as paying a bill in person.

Second, she needs to give herself enough time every week to take care of household activities, such as cooking or cleaning. If she can, she should arrange her workday so that the cleaning or cooking are all taken care of in the same time block so that, when she is working, she will not be distracted.

Third, she needs breaks during her work day. Regardless of her self-employment status, she needs those breaks so she can rest her mind and eyes. If she keeps her television on for sound, she can take advantage of this and watch a portion of a program during her breaks and lunch.

The Consequences of Overworking as a Freelancer

Is she at risk of burnout if she doesn’t allow herself to relax? Isn’t that just a bunch of fancy talk that allows her to be lazy at home?

Yes, she is risking burnout which can put her business at risk. No, it isn’t just an excuse to be lazy. Here’s an imaginary scenario:

Our freelancer (let’s call her Vicky) is highly motivated to make her business a success. With this goal in mind, she sets up an ambitious work schedule. Thing is, she overlooks giving herself enough time to take care of business outside her home; she forgets to factor in time for laundry, cleaning or cooking. She forgets about her need to recharge herself.

At first, things are going great. She’s putting in 12-hour days and she’s seeing results. She’s gaining new clients every month and they are becoming repeat clients. She gets excited and redoubles her earning efforts. She begins working on Saturdays.

Her house is beginning to show signs of neglect: laundry is piling up and it’s been a few weeks since the bathroom was cleaned. When she remembers to eat, it’s an apple here, a bowl of cold cereal there or crackers and cheese. She’s had to throw out more than one carton of spoiled milk and moldy or spoiled food.

One morning she wakes up –– or she tries to wake up. Her eyes just won’t open and she is so exhausted. She feels like she got slammed by a freight train. Thinking she’s coming down with the flu, she stays in bed and sleeps until 3 p.m. The next few days are a repeat. She’s getting calls from clients looking for the jobs they gave her. They want to see what progress she has made and all they’re getting is her voice mail. Eventually, she’s able to get up and she checks her voice mails only to find out that some of her best clients are ready to jump ship and look for another freelancer. Even worse, when she opens her email account, her best client has already done so.

She’s alarmed and, despite the fact that she’s still very tired, she resumes her work schedule. She finishes the jobs she’s contracted for and sends them to her clients. She gets calls and emails from them, letting her know that they found several errors in her work. They’re sorry, but they’re going to terminate their contract with her and send her their final payment.

If Vicky had set up a realistic work schedule, this would never have happened — or, at the very least, the chances of this happening would have been greatly reduced.

Find a Hobby and Respect Your Mind and Body

Working for Herself at Home FDP Credit Ambro

The self-employed freelancer needs to give herself a workable schedule.

Where does the relaxing activity or hobby come in? Just as with the reasonable working schedule and work, it comes out at the top. As a self-employed person, Vicky is responsible for it all. She is her own boss and employee. She has to pay self-employment taxes every quarter. She has to pay for all her office supplies AND all of her personal bills. She cannot do so if she is driving herself so hard she makes herself physically ill.

For this reason, it is very important for her to leave herself enough time at the end of the day to relax with something recreational. It should, of course, be something she enjoys learning and doing. Perhaps it’s gourmet cooking or baking; woodworking; making or writing music; a needle craft or creative writing. Just as if she were traditionally employed by an employer, she needs to give herself time at the end of her workday to recharge her batteries (physical, mental and emotional).

What I Do Offline to Recharge Myself

Suat Eman

Relax with a cup of steaming hot tea and your favorite pastime. Credit: Suat Eman

Let’s face it –– in today’s rush, rush workaday world, I use every resource I have, including time, mental, emotional, cognitive and physical. At the end of the day, I’m worn out and I need to recharge the batteries, so to speak.

As a freelance writer, yes, I work at home. I don’t have to worry about leaving my house on time every morning and fighting traffic to get to work. I’m able to structure my day as I need so I can take care of everything that needs to be done. Still. It’s all on me –– the earning, the decision-making, managing the business and my home. That’s a lot to be responsible for and it does use up all the resources I have available. That’s why I have several offline activities I indulge in so I can recharge myself.

My go-to activity is creating beauty. Because I create writing for my pay, which I love, this is a natural extension for me. My current non-writing creative outlets include crochet, cross stitch and, as I become more skilled at it, beading. I have a large box stored in my sunroom that is full of my crafting supplies. In addition, I have a storage box with a latching lid stuffed with balls of yarn and crochet hooks that don’t fit in my crochet hook wallet. Let’s not forget the plastic zipping bags that hold the “overflow” yarn. I have three projects in progress right now, with a fourth planned –– as soon as I finish the one I’m working on now.

The aforementioned box holds supplies for plastic canvas, two latch hook kits, cross stitch supplies and several cross stitch kits that I have owned for more years than I care to remember. I also have craft storage boxes filled with beads and beading thread. I haven’t bought any pliers yet because I’m not at the point where I can “graduate” to using beading wire, but I’ll get there –– some day.

I love beauty, regardless of whether it’s contained in words that weave a tale or in an item that I’ve made from my own two hands. For this reason, turning from word-crafting to crochet or cross stitch at the end of my work day is a natural progression. I’m currently crocheting a set of fingerless gloves for a friend on the East coast –– with the winter they’re experiencing, she’ll get really good use out of them. I started glove two just a couple of days ago and I’m already halfway through making it. I should be able to mail these gloves to her fairly soon; then I’ll start working on a late Christmas gift for another friend. We discussed her favorite colors and I have a couple of ideas to make something for her.

I have a crochet pattern for a short-sleeve sweater I want to make for myself. I’ve only been actively crocheting for five years, so this project will test my skills. I do have to wonder how relaxing that project will be. The other project is a “School Colors” afghan I’m making for my oldest son. He lives on the West coast, where the winters are wet and cold, so I’m thinking this afghan will help keep him warm after work and at night when he goes to bed. I originally conceived this afghan idea, using four yarn colors –– the two colors closest to our school colors of red and blue, plus two different shades (burgundy and windsor blue). I made the first blanket, using all four colors and gave that one to my youngest son. On really cold nights here, he uses that afghan. My older son asked for a blanket crocheted with the burgundy and windsor blue yarns. I threw an additional variation into his blanket –– I am crocheting it in color blocks, where the original blanket is stitched in wide stripes. Since this is my own pattern, I’m modifying it so each blanket is an original creation for both of my sons.

I really want to get back to the cross stitching and latch hook, not to mention my beading. Because I’m always able to find new patterns or develop new ideas for projects, I foresee many pleasurable evenings, recharging my batteries. When I sit on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a couple of cookies in front of me and I pick up on my crocheting, I can feel the tension leaving my body. Crochet, for me, is an activity where I’m able to focus my attention. As I crochet each stitch, I am fully focused on the yarn moving through my fingers, with the hook creating each stitch. The program on TV provides a sound accompaniment as I stitch, sip my tea and munch my cookies. By the end of the evening, I’m ready for a shower and bed.





Writing for Fun and Profit

Writing is Not Your Old Fifth-Grade Theme Paper

What do you think of when you hear, “I need to get my writing done?” If you dutifully wrote the history or reading theme paper assignments Ms. Chitterley gave when you were in fifth grade, you may think, “Dull! Why not do something exciting?”

Looking at the flip side of this coin, maybe you felt a little thrill of excitement as you found out your teacher was assigning a written paper. Regardless of the part of the writing process you like the best, each endeavor, be it a research report for a class, a progress report for your boss, a web content article for one of your clients –– or, best of all –– more progress on the novel you’re writing, you need to carry out basic research first.

Primary and Secondary Research

“Primary” research is material you find that comes right from the source. If, for instance, you’re writing an article for LiveSTRONG about the causes of infertility and related treatments, the best kind of research for this type of article comes right from the source –– the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers and scientists who study infertility, its causes, how it impacts couples and ways of helping these couples have children.

If you are an engineering student and one of your professors has assigned your Fluid Mechanics class a group paper, you and your group partners will conduct detailed research at the university’s library; you may also use Lexis Nexis as you look for the most recent and best research that comes straight from other engineers.

While elementary and middle school students don’t have to research to the same levels that high school and college students, scientists, doctors, researchers and engineers do, because they are just learning to research correctly, this process is just as difficult.

If you are a freelance writer with web content clients (Demand Media Studios, Bright Hub, Constant Content, Associated Content, WiseGEEK) or offline clients, each one has detailed writing guidelines that spell out how they want you to research your article’s titles and cite that research. Using primary research, and using it well, makes it easier for your readers to trust what you are saying.

Secondary research comes from sources that are not as close to the people who have made the discoveries. For instance, you may find a news story in the New York Times that talks about the history of smartphones. The reporters writing these articles conducted the primary research and the paper printed the stories. When you find and save these stories, you are conducting secondary research.

The Writing Process

Regardless of whether you are writing a research paper, web article, report for work or your novel, the writing process has more than one layer.

After you have found and saved your research, you highlight and extract the most important pieces, using what answers the questions.

Write an outline that hits the most important questions or “tells the story.”

For a research paper, you need to write your introduction first so the paper starts to take a shape and you know in which direction you need to go. For other venues of writing, you may decide to write the intro after writing the body of your article; you may not even need an intro.

Following your outline, write your paper, article or book. Whether you follow your outline point by point or whether you use it as a guide, just write. The time for editing and corrections comes when you’ve finished writing.

After you have finished the first draft of your paper/report/book, give yourself a little pat on the back and relax. Get away from the words you’ve written so you can read (and edit) them with a fresh eye.

Editing

Take your creation out of the drawer and use a red pencil to make your notations. Look for typos and grammar errors, noting in the margins what these are. Read your creation out loud, checking to see if words and paragraphs flow logically. If they do not, then note where they fit better and indicate this with red arrows on your manuscript.

If your creation is your novel, look for weak characterization or plot. Make the needed changes, either deleting a weak, useless character or making him stronger. Look for areas in your writing where the plot line gets confusing –– maybe you should introduce more of a transition between scenes. As you read, keep in mind what has already happened, what is happening now and what will happen in future chapters. You’re looking for errors in timeline; maybe you had an event happen in the spring, but you’re referring to it taking place in the winter in another part of the book.

Make all the changes you find need to be taken care of; once you are happy with your work, ask a trusted friend or associate to read it for you and let you know if there are any additional changes to make.

Writing doesn’t have to be a painful or boring process. Think of the research process as a time of learning something you didn’t know before and do this for every writing assignment you receive.

Not everyone is cut out to be a writer, but those who are have that urge in their psyches –– “I have a book inside me that just has to be written.”

Follow that urge. Write your story. If you are working on an assignment, make it the best it can be.

 

Beading

Beads. These aren’t the same long, single-strand necklaces you bought at the Palace of the Governors from the American Indians in Santa Fe. Sure, you can still find those simple necklaces, but today’s bead work necklaces (and earrings, bracelets, anklets, rings, chokers and headbands) are more complex and probably just a little more ornate.

Let’s begin with the beads. From the seed beads that come in all colors of the rainbow to faceted beads, glass beads, gemstones, cinnabar, bugle beads, chevron beads and lampwork beads, you can find just the right kind of bead for the project you are getting ready to make.

Seed beads are some of the smallest you’ll work with, coming in opaque colors (you can’t see through them). Just a little bigger, the E beads are a bit easier to work with because you can handle them a little bit more easily.

The glass beads come in a variety of finishes, shapes and sizes. Transparent glass beads are easy to see through, whether they are clear or colored. You’ll also find the lampwork bead in this category and they are considered to be works of art, says Debbie Wittenski on Bella Online. Glass beads tend to have a finish that wears easily. Bugle beads, also falling in the glass bead category, are thin, tubular beads. These give your beaded projects a smooth line.

Faceted beads are beads that have at least one flat surface and these fall into the seed bead category. Some smaller categories of faceted beads include 3-cuts, Charlottes and Austrian Swarovski crystal beads.

Chevron beads are made with several layers differently colored glass in corrugated layers. This construction helps make a “star burst” as you look at it from one end, says Wittenski.

Cinnabar beads are made from lacquered wood that has been hand carved. The beads are usually, but not always, red and originate in China.

You need supplies to make your beaded creations. Let’s start with the cord and wire. Beginning beaders should begin with thin elasticized cord that allows them to make simple items. Elastic cord can be tied once you have finished adding the beads to your project, but the ends show unless you find a way of clipping them very close to the knot.

Clear beading cord is also very easy to use and is less visible. To ensure that you have secured the ends sufficiently, you need to burn the ends with a match or cigarette lighter.

Memory wire is a specially manufactured wire that springs back into its original shape –– it “remembers” its shape. You can cut this wire and twist it around bead findings like clasps, jump rings and lobster clasps.

Beading wire is strong, allowing you to make creations that won’t break with wear. Bracelets, chokers and necklaces come to mind –– putting them on, taking them off and storing them all cause different kinds of strain, which the wire is able to withstand.

Don’t forget about the wire cutters and different types of pliers you’ll need to use. Pliers allow you to work with small jewelry findings as you finish your bead creations. Because wire is so strong, you need wire cutters to cut it when you have finished wrapping it around your jewelry findings, completing your pieces of jewelry.

To make your jewelry creations appear more professional, you need to use jewelry findings that allow you to put on, attach and take your creations off easily. These include jump rings, crimping beads, lobster clasps, toggle clasps and head pins. If you plan to make earrings, you need earring findings as well.

Finally, you need project ideas. What will you make? How simple or ornate will the item be? If you are making a multi-strand necklace, make sure you have the right materials. If you plan to make a single-strand necklace that uses a variety of beads and bead sizes, don’t be afraid to be creative or to mix and match bead colors.

Now that you know what supplies you need to begin beading, visit your hobby store and start laying in those supplies. Begin with simple beadwork projects and make gifts for friends, family and loved ones. Happy creating!

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art23692.asp

http://www.auntiesbeads.com/Popular-Beads-Supplies_c_1068.html

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