Showing 58 Result(s)
online learning

5 Things You Gain From Online Learning

The half-life of a learned skill is five years. Much of what you learned ten years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned five years ago is irrelevant.

A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown

I saw that quote a few days ago from a post on Linkedin. I searched online to check where this quote came from. This came from A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.

When I first read that quote, it struck me and asked myself if the quote applies to everyone.

Ten and Five Years Ago

I’ve been in the workforce for more than 25 years. There are some nursing and med. tech. skills that will never die after graduating from college. But I’m no longer a practicing medical technologist and nurse. And if ever I return to professional practice, I would need to take refresher courses to update myself with the current trends and best practices and renew my licenses.

I’ve been a creative writer for 21 years now and my screenplay writing skills may have turned rusty as I haven’t written a full-length movie script for years. The recent scripts I’ve written were short company audio-visual presentations.

I’ve been a freelance writer for 8 years and the SEO and social media practices I’ve learned before may now be irrelevant.

Yeah, that quote applies to everyone in this ever-connected world. Welcome to the 21st century brand of learning.

e-Learning

The first time I heard of online learning was back in 1999 when I heard the University of the Philippines offers Open University. Enrolling in a degree course and taking it online at home, the student is only required to come on campus at a specified time or when necessary.

I experienced online learning first hand when I was employed in a BPO company. They require all employees to take an online training course and call it a “university” where at the end of each course, you take a test and get a certificate of completion, if applicable.

When I started freelancing, I saw some sites that offer online courses and enrolled in a few of them. It seems that e-learning has become the greatest revolution in today’s education.

Advantages of Online Learning

At Home

Most of us have attended a traditional learning setup — school campus, classroom, library, Principal’s office, etc. We need to pay for tuition and other fees to be enrolled and attend classes. Attendance is checked, exams are given, and at the end of the term, you’ll know if you passed or failed. Nowadays, aside from getting a formal education, people get online degree programs or take courses through an online platform. It takes a Google search to find a suitable course for you and it’s also interactive.

Self-paced

Although online education has its limitations, people find it convenient to take it within the comfort of their home. All lectures and materials are provided online and students can learn at their own pace. But comfort does go both ways. Although e-learning can be done at home, one can always be distracted. Thus self-discipline is required of each learner. That’s one of the reasons why UP Open University requires all applicants to take their readiness test to see if the student can withstand the demands of online learning.

Cheaper

Most online courses are cheaper than school tuition fees. And there are more than a million online courses that are free. But be careful in choosing those free online courses.

Good on your resume

Taking an online program will always look good on your resume. Potential employers or clients will think that you’re taking further education seriously.

There’s a course for almost everything

Nowadays, online courses are shorter because they focus on one topic. These mini-courses are skill or knowledge specific which if taken in a formal education set-up it may not be available or might have been mentioned lightly.

Everything is Teachable

There are people who still think that students don’t get real degrees online. Some may even think that online learners are lazy or are not smart enough to withstand formal education. That’s not how it is nowadays. Prestigious universities around the world do offer their degree courses online.

Because of the Internet, we’re constantly sharing our thoughts, our experiences, and our talents. There is so much stuff that we know that we don’t even know that we know. Sometimes, the greatest impact would come from sharing things we’re passionate about.

That makes us creators. Everyone has a skill and knowledge that he could share no matter the location, the experience, or the personality. Anyone can teach the things he loves and be able to impact the lives of others. You can teach the things that seem simple to you and be able to grow a community around you. You can change the norm and follow your dreams because everything is teachable.

When I started this website in 2016, all I thought was sharing what I think about writing and working from home. I’m doing this because I believe sharing is doing something right. I’m using this platform to share my experiences and what I’ve learned from the things I love doing.

Teachable

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is advised to stay at home. I took this opportunity to attend a series of webinars which focuses on e-learning from an online platform called Teachable. Content creators can create courses and earn from these courses with this platform.

Career Karma

Also recently, I received an email from Arthur Meyster of Career Karma. Career Karma is a free app which promotes coding boot camps in the U.S. for people who are interested in breaking into information technology. Students can discover peers, coaches, and mentors to help accelerate your career in technology. However, the coding boot camps are in the U.S. I do hope there is something like this here in the Philippines.

Small Revolution

A few months ago, I received an email from Katrina McKinnon of Small Revolution. Her website is an online learning platform for those who want to become a copywriter and a virtual assistant. It also has a library of articles, bookshop and community. Small Revolution works with Kazi Work, a directory of vetted freelancers who are looking for online work. When a student finishes the training and graduates they are highlighted in Kazi Work.

My Thoughts

For the past few days, I’ve learned a lot and I’m already thinking on how I should be sharing my knowledge through this platform more. My quarterly newsletter is coming out soon and I’ll be sharing a good resource, too. So watch out for those two.

Tell me what you think about this article and let me know if I have missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

apps

Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

Introduction

I’ve been freelancing for years and aside from my laptop, I need apps and tools that will not only make my work more efficient but also will allow me to get the job done and deliver. There are thousands of work management apps available online. But which of these apps are really for freelance writers?

If you have been freelancing or working online for some time now, you might be familiar with some of these apps. But if you’re just starting, consider this as an apps guide for an organized, productive, and efficient work from home life.

My Hardware

my remote work officeWhen I started freelancing in 2012, I used to have a desktop computer sitting beside a 3-in-1 printer on a desk. I had to invest in these pieces of hardware plus a stable Internet connection to start working at home.

As time goes by, mobility became a necessity. Thus, in 2015, I shifted from a desktop computer to a laptop. Until now, I still use a laptop 100% of the time.

Although I have an Android phone, I only use it for texting, calling, social media browsing, a few games, and my Kindle app. I never send emails or write notes using my smartphone.

And yes, add a headset with microphone for making calls. Having been in the BPO industry has made it not just a computer accessory, but a necessity.

My Apps

Most of the apps I’ll mention here are freemium, meaning you have the option to upgrade them from the free plan in order to use the full range of features. As much as possible, I always use the free or personal plan because I’m all alone in my freelance writing business anyway.

MS Office / LibreOffice

During the last quarter last year, most of my apps are web-based because I was using Linux Lubuntu as my laptop’s operating system. I have LibreOffice installed as part of the installation package. It was just like having an MS Office but free and open-source software (FOSS). What’s good about LibreOffice is I can save documents in .docx, .xls, and .pptx by default so that it would be compatible with the others who use the MS Office suite.

This year, I’m back using Windows so I have MS Office installed on my new laptop.

Google Chrome

Of course, to access the Internet, I need to use a net browser. Firefox is the default browser for Linux, but there is Google Chrome for Linux which my husband installed for me and which I use most of the time.

I prefer Chrome because I usually login on several sites using my Google account. However, there are a few sites that don’t run properly on Chrome (which used to run very well when I was still using Windows) but will run better on Firefox.

Start.me

If Chrome is my default browser, Start.me is my default home page. It is basically a bookmark management site where I classify often-used websites and apps into groups, icons, and links.

Back in the day, I used to have MyYahoo and iGoogle as my Start.me appstart pages until Yahoo! and Google took them down respectively to protect their search engine business. Come to think of it, it makes sense for them to do away with bookmarking because it will make us type on their search bar more instead.

But I prefer having a customized start page and I’m subscribed to Start.me’s free plan. Upgrade starts at $20.00 a year for professional use and the rate increases for team and enterprise use. A Start.me page can be customized by using different background themes and widgets. Once I open my Chrome browser, I have in front of me all the often-used links plus the weather and quote of the day.

Goodsearch

Goodsearch appI learned of this app in 2012 when I first joined NaNoWriMo. Ever since I’ve used of Goodsearch, I rarely use Google as a search engine. Goodsearch allows me to search for information and at the same time, for every unique search I typed in, they will give a penny ($0.01 USD) to my chosen charity (which is NaNoWriMo). Goodsearch is powered by Yahoo! It also has Goodshop and used to have Goodgames (I miss this!).

GMX Mail

Isn’t it nice to have all your email accounts in one place? That’s why I have GMX Mail. Its email collection feature is so awesome that I can read all my emails from different accounts. I can manage my contacts and calendar, too. It also has online office tools like Google Drive but I don’t use it.

Google Drive

Speaking of Google Drive, I use this to create, organize, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online and on cloud. Sending a file to my clients is easy just by sharing it with a link, no need to attach it on email. But there are times when I need to upload a document from my hard drive and share them on the cloud. Uploading and downloading files on Google Drive is easy.

OfficeMA

OfficeMA appI’ve been using OfficeMA since 2013. This is my freelance business management tool and has a timer. This is also a freemium and I’m using the free plan because, as I’ve said earlier, I’m alone in my business.

This app allows me to handle multiple clients with different rates. Thus, when I start the timer, it can automatically compute for my work charged by the hour even though I have other clients whom I charged a fixed rate.

The paid plan (Professional) costs £1.20 GBP per person per month and lets you issue invoices. But I don’t need that feature because I have my own PayPal account.

I have used different timer/monitoring tools, too, like Time Doctor, Worksnaps, HubStaff, ActivTrak etc. because some clients do require me to install a monitoring tool. Whenever they don’t, I use my OfficeMA and send them a report once a task, assignment, or project is done.

PayPal

Ever since I started working from home in 2012, I have used PayPal as my payment management tool. Setting up an account was easy back then, I didn’t have any problems with linking it to my bank account. Most of my clients pay me via PayPal in their own currencies. I can also issue invoices using the app when I need to. But most of the time, my clients don’t need invoices.

Skype

Calling long distance is costly. But thanks to the marvels of the Internet, we now have Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). One of the early apps on communication is Skype with its desktop version. Now, I’m using the web-based Skype. This version is convenient for me. Aside from making a call, I can do a video call, chat, and even share files.

I also use Messenger on my phone and seldom on my computer. There are clients who prefer Messenger over Skype. I am also familiar with other chat tools like MS Communicator, HipChat, Viber, Slack, Webex, Zoom, etc.

Trello

Trello appTrello is my project management/collaboration/organization tool. It applies the Kanban method by using boards, lists, and cards. It is also a freemium app and I’ve been using it since 2015. Upgrade starts at $9.99 USD per user per month.

I have used Basecamp, Highrise, Taiga, Slack, Asana, etc. because my clients use one or two of these. But I still prefer using Trello.

Evernote

Remember those Trapper Keeper binders during the ’90s? Those big binders can hold more than one notebook. Evernote is literally my online notebook binder. It allows me to create notebooks and organize my notes. It is also a freemium app and the upgrade starts at Php 130.00 a month. I used to have the app on my cell phone but I found the size too large for my phone’s memory so I use the web version since then.

However, not all my notes are on the cloud. I still have my Bullet Journal with me for planning and taking down notes.

Canva

Canva appI started using Canva in 2015 for my graphic design needs. I am not an illustrator so I use this app to create images for my website and social media accounts. It is also a freemium and upgrade starts at $9.95 a month when billed annually.

DupliChecker

DupliChecker is a web-based plagiarism tool that I’ve been using since 2012. After writing, I copy and paste the document (up to 1,000 words only per check) on the site and it will detect plagiarism for free.

WordPress

I use WordPress for Content Management System (CMS). Aside from this website, I still maintain other blogs using the WordPress platform. Years ago, I had a love-hate relationship with it.

RELATED ARTICLE: 100 Best Apps for Online Job Freelancers

Other Apps

There are apps that I’ll also mention here because they’re worth using especially when working from home. These are the apps which I use only when needed.

HootSuite

HootSuite is a social media management tool which I started using in 2013. This is also a freemium app. The free version used to allow me five different social media profiles but now, it was reduced to three. Back then, I could schedule many posts across all five social media platform, but now the free version only allows 30 scheduled posts. That’s one of the reasons why I seldom use this app nowadays.

MailChimp

Mailchimp is an easy-to-use marketing tool which can organize my mailing list, subscribers, newsletters, and marketing campaigns. The free version allows me to have a limited number of subscribers, but once I exceed, I have to pay a monthly fee. Therefore the pay increases as my mailing list grows. However, I switched to MailChimp’s TinyLetter late last year. TinyLetter is much simpler to use and fits my needs.

Free Press Release

I used to have an account with Free Press Release for creating and distributing press releases. However, I’ve checked the URL and it’s no longer available. Instead, I found PRFree, another free press release distribution site. It has been years since I’ve written a press release so I was unaware of this change. This is also a freemium PR distribution service and upgrade starts at $19.00 USD per PR.

Hemingway Editor

For writers like me, the Hemingway Editor helps make my writing readable and lean. Inspired by Hemingway’s “rule” in writing (less adverbs, the better), this app will show which sentences are too long or wordy with its color-coded highlighting.

Free Screencast

Free Screencast is a video editor that runs on Windows. I used to have a GoPlay Editor which I used to create YouTube videos years ago. I shifted to Free Screencast because it’s free. However, be aware of the add-ons it’s trying to impose on you [Chromium and McAfee]. I haven’t done videos lately, so I haven’t experienced the other features

There you have it, the apps I use in freelance writing.

I would like to thank Katrina McKinnon for reaching out to me and inspired me to write this article. You may visit her website, Small Revolution, an online learning platform for people who want to work from home.

Let me know if you have used any of these apps and tell me what you think. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

 

clients

Stop Attracting Bad Clients

All freelancers agree that there are bad clients out there. We hear from writers similar stories of bad experiences from clients after writing for them. I, too, experience those types of clients. This phenomenon has become a chronic disease for some writers because they get one bad client after another which could burn them out of freelance writing.

But before I go on, let me share my recent experience which prompted me to write this blog post in the first place.

A Recent Experience

I’ve been promoting myself as a freelance writer through this website and once in a while, I do engage on social media. One day, I posted a comment on someone’s YouTube channel and shared a link about working from home which leads to my blog.

The personality behind that YouTube channel has books, TV appearances, and a large following on social media. He sent me an email through my website to contact him. I was surprised and was very honored to talk to him on the phone. In the process, he asked for a writing sample. I sent one, and he liked it. I haven’t heard anything from him since.

Just recently, I received an email from his staff asking for my rate. I told the staff that my rates vary depending on the client and their needs.

Although I prefer to be paid by the hour, not all of my clients prefer this method. I can be paid per month, per project, per article, per page, per 500 words, or a combination of per hour + per 500 words.

Also, I told the staff that as a member of the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines (FWGP), no writer should be paid lower than Php 2.00 per word. So I gave them a quote for my minimum rate which I believe is fair enough for me and for them, and still within the FWGP standard.

After a few hours, I received the staff’s reply. He said that “although they like my writing”, my rate “is beyond something they can afford”. They also said that they “wouldn’t haggle because they respect my pricing”.

That reply made me think.

This personality has more than half a million subscribers on YouTube alone. His books are best-sellers. With his stature, he can afford to hire good writers at a fair rate. Saying that they couldn’t afford my rate made me think that they’re probably hiring someone who would accept a writing job worth less than Php 2.00 per word. Now I’m wondering how much does this YouTube personality pay his team.

I’m just hoping that no one from the FWGP circle would be fool enough to accept a YouTube video script writing job for less than Php 2.00 per word because this perpetuates the phenomenon of getting bad clients.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Will You Charge?

Types of Bad Clients

The YouTube personality I mentioned is not really a bad person. I am subscribed to his channel because I like his content. But because of this personal incident, I could classify him as a potential bad client.

Below are the types of clients freelancers encounter. If you experienced at least one of them, chances are you’ve been duped. But if you experienced them all before, by all means, avoid them.

The control freaks

These clients have a lot of trust issues. They keep on sending you a message every now and then asking for updates. They might even require you to install a remote monitoring tool just to check if you’re not playing around.

The dreamers

These clients want the moon and the stars. You’re enticed to support their goals but the problem is, they don’t tell you how to get there. You’ll have to figure it out yourself and give it to them on time.

The eccentrics

These clients don’t have an idea of what they want until you write it for them. They’ll be happy but then they’d change their mind and realize that your writing or your service is not what they want at all.

The samplers

These clients would ask for a writing sample or ask you to do a “writing test” just to check if you’re the right fit. And most of the time, the sample is never paid.

The fly-by-nights

These clients disappear with your payment. They would come up with all the reasons for not paying you. They could also be eccentric, you know. Also, a sampler and a fly-by-night could be one and the same person.

The misers

These clients prefer to pay the lowest rate possible. That’s why they are scattered across the different online job platforms. Most of them are also starting up, with limited funds to hire people, thus they outsource.

Why You Keep on Attracting Them

You might have heard of the Law of Attraction. Your thoughts become things. Whatever you think and act about, you bring about.

Probably, in your desire to get the freelance writing gig quick, you attract them unknowingly. Here are the reasons why:

You keep on choosing clients in the wrong places.

When I started freelancing back in 2012, I started using oDesk and Elance (both are now Upwork). I also made a profile on other online job sites like OnlineJobsPH, PeoplePerHour, Outsourcely, etc. These sites are where I’ve met those bad clients, and only a handful were good ones.

I’ve realized that these sites have become overcrowded with writers who are willing to bid low rates just to get the job. And bad clients love these kinds of freelance writers.

You sound desperate.

Have you noticed how you write your cover letter or pitch? Take a look at these samples:

“I agree with the cause of your non-profit organization and I would be honored to write for you for a reduced rate.”

“I would be willing to lower my rate if you’d agree to hire me.”

“I don’t have any writing samples, but if you would give me a chance to write for you, I could prove my worth.”

“I would love to write for you.”

These are the statements that attract bad clients. They could smell insecure and desperate writers. And in the end, these poor desperate writers would be treated like doormats.

You easily jump in for anything and everything.

In the desire to get a freelance writing gig, you tend to apply for any writing job on any platform without realizing what type of writing the prospect wants. Applying for any writing job on any writing format and hoping that something will stick together doesn’t work.

I consider myself as a generalist because I can write both fiction and non-fiction, from web content to academic writing, and almost everything in between. However, I know what I can’t write and I tell my clients about that at the beginning.

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

What You Could Do To Avoid Bad Clients

Qualify your prospects.

Qualifying means to check your prospective client’s online reputation. Do some research. It’s not bad to have a profile on some online job platforms. Some platforms provide ratings for employers to guide freelancers. You may still find rare gems there.

Target your prospects directly.

It’s better to choose the type of writing jobs you are comfortable with. Avoid those job posts that seem too good to be true. With experience, you can sense the job posts made by these bad clients.

If possible, have a website or a blog that prospective clients could look into. One advantage of having a website is that you control your own content, thus your own profile and portfolio. And it makes you stand out from the crowd.

My current client sent me an email and told me that he found me on Google while searching for a freelance writer. And when I proposed my rates, he agreed. This only shows that there are good clients out there.

Also, learn some principles of good networking. Dress up, attend gatherings, and connect with people. Who knows? They may refer you to good clients in the future.

Project that self-confidence and communicate your useful expertise.

Take a look at what you’re writing and saying. Are you using words that show your confidence? You should come across with an attitude that your writing is a valuable skill and provide a valuable service.

But what if you’re not confident enough? Then fake it until you make it. Doing consistent confident actions tend to build confidence over time.

Try looking for gigs that you are comfortable writing with first.

“Write what you know” is a cliche you’ve heard a lot of times. But for freelancers, this can still apply. Successful freelance writers focus on specific industries and limit their clients within that niche. Ask yourself what topics and industries do you prefer to write about. Do you want to focus on B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-customers)? And if you see a niche you really want to get into but don’t know about yet, then study and learn until you’re comfortable writing about it.

Have your prospective client pay for a writing sample.

To avoid a bad experience with the samplers, have them pay your writing sample. Charge them per article or per 500 words whether or not they hire you or not.

I’ve put this provision in my Statement of Work with the client. I charge it either per article or per 500 words depending on the length. I also put in there that if ever they liked my writing, the project will push through. But if not, consider it as a “kill fee”.

RELATED ARTICLE: Statement of Work

My Final Thoughts

Freelancers encounter bad clients, that is a fact. But it should never be a constant in each freelance writer’s life.

To avoid having bad clients, know who, what, and where to look for a good client. Acting and sounding confident (even though you’re faking it) could impress a potential client. And focus on a specific niche you’re comfortable writing about.

Let me know if you have experienced these types of bad clients and how you dealt with them. Or just tell me what you think about this post. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Pomodoro Technique

Is the Pomodoro Technique For You?

The first time I heard of the Pomodoro Technique was in November 2013 while working for a client. My client told me to learn this time management system and apply it while doing the tasks for him. So he sent me some materials to read and off I started.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a revolutionary time management system developed by Francesco Cirillo during the late ‘80s. It uses a timer to break down tasks into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks. Each interval is called a “pomodoro”, an Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he first used.

Why the Pomodoro Technique?

As a student, Cirillo had challenges focusing on his studies. Using a pen, paper, and kitchen timer, he devised a method of monitoring the time he spent on studying.

Many people think of time as an enemy. The need to beat the deadline, the need to arrive early for an appointment, and the need to finish tasks at the end of the day are just a few examples of how people envision time as an enemy.

However, with the Pomodoro Technique, you will learn to work with time instead of struggling against it.

How It Works

This method uses three things: a pen, some paper, and a timer.
Before starting, write down one Pomodoro cycle on paper like this:

  • First interval [25 mins]
  • First break [5 mins]
  • Second interval [25 mins]
  • Second break [5 mins]
  • Third interval [25 mins]
  • Third break [5 mins]
  • Fourth interval [25 mins]
  • Long break [15 to 30 mins]

Choose a task that requires your full, undivided attention and that you’d like to get done. Set the timer for 25 minutes and start working on the task until the time’s up. If you suddenly think of doing another task or another thought comes into mind, write that distraction down on paper and continue with the task at hand. When the timer rings, mark the first interval done. Take a 5-minute break then repeat the process four times. However, on your fourth break, take a long one, around 15 to 30 minutes.

This method encourages you to focus on one task and eliminate distractions. It also allows you to use the first few minutes of each Pomodoro to review what you’ve done on the previous interval. Also, the method discourages you to start the next step without finishing the task at hand.

With the Pomodoro Technique, you can measure the amount of time you spend on tasks in terms of Pomodoro units. If one Pomodoro cycle is equivalent to two hours, then you’ll have around four Pomodoro cycles or sixteen intervals of work to get things done in an 8-hour work day.

Is the Pomodoro Technique for You?

The Pomodoro Technique can be learned with time and practice. Based on my experience, Pomodoro Technique isn’t for everyone and doesn’t work on other creative tasks.

Proponents say that the technique works in the creative writing process. However, I don’t use the Pomodoro Technique when I’m writing a novel. Whenever I’m in the zone, I forget to take note of the time, thus the steps I’ve mentioned earlier become distractions.

Also, I admit I misused the Pomodoro Technique at some time. The first and second intervals were successful, but I prolonged the third and the fourth breaks. At first, it was fine, a few added minutes would not hurt. Then I realized that I’d be having longer breaks than I should.

I know that this technique should be practiced with discipline, but for creatives like me who appreciate the time away from a creative task, this method might not work.

Another thing, if the day is filled with meetings, travel or commute, or other time-consuming activities mostly away from the desk, the Pomodoro Technique wouldn’t work.

So I only use this whenever I’m faced with an important but daunting (or boring) task. This way, I’m forced to do the task and I’m taking accountability once I write down the Pomodoro cycle on my Bullet Journal.

Let me know if you have used the Pomodoro Technique and tell me what you think. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

pitch a good idea

The Pitch

During my screenwriting workshop days, we spent a lot of time writing down a one-sentence story pitch on the board. Our mentor, Nestor U. Torre, would comment if the pitch will sustain a full-length film story or not. It took us some time to get things right. Because if we couldn’t make a good pitch, there’s no screenplay to start with.

What is a Pitch?

In creative writing, a pitch (a.k.a. as logline or hook) is usually 25 words long that captures the essence of the novel, film, or any story. It’s the heart of the story. It is the writer’s description that will sell the idea before writing it down and getting paid.

It’s also known as the “elevator pitch”. Why? Imagine if you’re inside the elevator with a well-known movie producer or publisher. It would take you only a few minutes to tell him what your story is all about before the door opens for him to leave. That’s why a pitch should be short, simple, and concise.

Why Pitch?

The need to whittle down a story to one sentence gives a writer the head start to work on summaries in the future. It is what you build around when creating longer pitches and developing the plot. Think of it as a skeleton or framework from which the structure is based upon.

A pitch is used when interacting with agents, entering contests, meeting with producers, or anyone with whom you want to engage. If they ask you, “What’s your story all about?”, you answer them with your pitch. Its main purpose is to get someone interested in your story.

The late Filipino film director Ishmael Bernal emphasized the need for a good one-sentence summary. He said if you can’t tell your story in one good sentence, then it’s not a good film story.

How to Write the Pitch

Usually, a pitch is 25 words long. What are the things you need to put in a pitch? Here are the main elements:

  • One or two characters (most of the time, the protagonist and the antagonist). But if the main characters are in a group (like a group of teenagers), you may do so.
  • Their goal, conflict, or the choice they made
  • What is at stake? (this may be stated or implied)
  • What are the obstacles in reaching their goal? Or what they should do to reach the goal.
  • Setting (if it is important)

The pitch may be written in different ways and here are three examples:

  1. When CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they have to overcome OBSTACLE to reach the GOAL.
  2. CHARACTER(s) need to overcome OBSTACLE/reach GOAL before WHAT’S AT STAKE happens only to be prevented by CONFLICT.
  3. CHARACTERS were a STATUS but CHANGE(d), only to meet again in CONFLICT.

Make sure that you’re describing an event and not the story’s theme. This is not the time to be vague or too general. You need not be too specific as well; no need to name the characters.

The pitch should just be enough for the audience to see the beginning, the middle, and the possible end. Also, your pitch should be able to make a lasting impression so that you stand out from the crowd and have a better chance of being given the assignment or project.

Conclusion

Creating a pitch takes time and effort. It’s hard to boil down your story to a one sentence summary. It may take you several attempts, so don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult at first. Sooner or later, you’ll know or feel that you have stumbled upon a perfect pitch. Start giving it a try and you’ll understand your story better.

Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Abante Komiks Si Aling Mameng

Si Aling Mameng

My Introduction to Abante Komiks

It was sometime November 2002 that I got in touch with a former acquaintance who introduced me to Willy Fatal, the Editor-in-Chief of Abante Komiks that time. I told Willy that I haven’t written a manuscript for a graphic novel or comics before but I know how.

So Willy said that he would give me a try and asked me to submit a manuscript as soon as possible. My first assignment was any mystery/suspense/thriller story which they usually publish every Thursday. I agreed because it was my favorite genre and I already had an idea brewing in my head at that time. I went home and laid out my story, figured out how to spread the story in frames on 32 pages.

The Concept

My idea came from a blurb of a new novel from an unknown author which I’ve read in a magazine. It was about the most hated neighbor in the whole neighborhood who died and no one came to his funeral. But when the police suspected a foul play, everybody in the neighborhood became suspects. That idea was so strong that I had to make my own version of it. So I wrote the manuscript in less than a week, I guess, and submitted the typewritten manuscript to Willy. My first comics. Yes, it was 2002 and I don’t have a computer yet at that time.

Meeting Louie Celerio

Willy was impressed that he gave me the freedom to write stories of any genre. So I started writing Two Weeks After, a romantic story, after that. When I submitted the manuscript of Two Weeks After, I saw Willy proofreading a copy of Si Aling Mameng. He even introduced me to Louie Celerio, son of National Artist Levi Celerio, and the illustrator of my story. I was thrilled to see the proofreader’s copy of my story and meet the illustrator at the same time. I was really honored. And my comics writing career began.

Traditional Pinoy Komiks Fading

Three stories after, and staying in Moncada, Tarlac, I stopped writing comics and focused on my tabloid column with Diyaryong Imbestigador. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to claim my complementary copies of the other stories I’ve written for Abante Komiks.

At that time, the Filipino komiks industry was in its last days, trying to survive in a world dominated by new and popular entertainment formats: the Internet, video games, cheap pocketbooks, funny text messages, DVDs, and of course, television.  At least, I was able to write stories in comics format and was able to contribute something in the industry’s last days.

Although the komiks that we’re used to is gone, the comics industry continues in a new form. These days, independent graphic artists produce comics that are edgy and adventurous. You’ll see them once or twice a year at Comic Conventions (Comicon) .

If you want to have a copy of Si Aling Mameng, click this link.

Let me know if you have written comics, too. Let me know if you want to learn how to write for comics, as well. I’d appreciate your feedback. If you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

 

statement of work

Items to Put In Your Statement of Work

One of the frustrations of a freelance writer is not being paid for the work he/she had done. The freelance writer would charge it to experience. However, it keeps on happening, especially if the client sounds too good to be true.

So to avoid this kind of scenario, it is better to set up a written Statement of Work (SOW) which, for me, also serves as my proposal. And once the client signs it, it becomes a contract.

I have on my file a template which I can freely edit depending on the client’s job request. So each of my clients receives a different scope, thus, a different rate.

Statement of Work

You might have heard of these acronyms or terms before:

  • RFI (Request for Information)
  • RFP (Request for Proposal)
  • SOW (Statement of Work)
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement)
  • MSA (Master Service Agreement)
  • Independent Contractor Agreement
  • Contract

Technically, they operate in different ways. These documents describe specific aspects of how an agency or a contractor is going to serve the needs of a client. These documents could represent a section or the entire contract itself.

Most businesses prefer a general contract. BPO companies do have a separate SOW and SLA within their Contract. Others prefer an Independent Contractor Agreement for freelancers.

The reason why I chose to call my contract a Statement of Work (SOW) rather than anything else is its purpose. A Statement of Work provides a detailed and descriptive list of all the deliverables of a project. For me, aside from providing a detailed description of my deliverables, my SOW serves as my free quote or job proposal, including my promise of service level. And if the client signs it, this becomes our contract.

Let me show you how I compose my Statement of Work.

The Parties Involved

At the beginning of the contract, I always state who I am dealing with.

This [type of contract] is by and between me, [YOUR NAME] of [your company] and the client, [CLIENT'S FULL NAME] of [client’s company].

I prefer to deal with one person, even if the clients are in pairs. This way, I avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding during the course of the project. However, if they are a pair, like a husband and wife team, I state both full names in the contract.

If the person has two companies, I prefer to set up a separate contract for each company. Why? Let me tell you a story:

I had this client who reached out to me to write for his website. The topic is within my expertise, thus I wrote blogs on his behalf comfortably well. However, when he announced that he would set up another website and asked me to write its contents, I thought twice. The topic is not within my expertise but I could write about it if I’ll research it well. That would mean more time for research and writing, meaning more time and effort. Thus, I gave the client another set of rates, different from the first assignment. At least, I would not feel I’m at a disadvantage if I write for both websites at the same time.

Most clients would take advantage of this situation. Since they already know how much I charge, they would find a way to use my talent to do something much bigger than the first assignment. Clients would think that the same rate applies across the board. It may apply to other freelancers like illustrators who could charge per piece, but not for freelance writers.

Scope of Work

This part of the contract contains a detailed and descriptive list of all the deliverables. It defines the type of project, its scope and limitations. This serves as a compass for the project so both parties can track the progress and make sure everything is going according to plan. It is better for me to define everything, even the slightest detail. A vague SOW only opens the door to disputes. It’s in the best interest of both parties to eliminate vagueness whenever possible.

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a [type of] project for the client which includes:
• [describe the nature,
• scope of the project, and
• limitations of the project]

An example of what I presented to a client recently looks like this:

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a SEO and Social Media Management project for the client, which includes:
-- administering the WordPress site,
-- article/blog writing
-- social media posts on 1 Facebook page and 1 Twitter account only (additional social media platforms will have additional charges)
-- responding to comments for audience engagement (but not including critical or sensitive customer service or technical support issues which I may not be able to handle due to my limited knowledge of and exposure to the company/organization)
-- content curation and
-- other activities related to Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Management.

Although the above example does not show much details, the important thing is I laid out the general scope and limitations of the work first. Particular details may be discussed and laid out later during the negotiation phase and/or final drafting of the contract.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

Delivery Date and Deliverables

This part defines the desired outcomes based on the scope of work. I usually state what I would produce (e.g. 2 articles in .docx format), when or how frequently they are delivered to the client (e.g. weekly), and how they should be delivered (e.g. via Google Drive).

Here is what I have on my template:

DELIVERY DATES: I shall complete the Services and/or Work by or in accordance with the delivery schedule below:
   Deliverable/s: [number of] hours per week (a total of [number of] hours per month) of writing in [type of] format.
   or [number of] words of [type of] writing in [type of] format within [period of time] upon my acknowledgement receipt of written instructions via email.
   Submission: Submission of deliverable will be via email or Google Drive or whichever the client prefers.

Revisions

Some freelance writers miss this part because they might not have given a thought about it. There are clients who keep on returning the work for revisions many times that the writer’s pay itself is no longer worth it.

As much as possible, I make sure that the work needs no revisions at all. However, there are times that clients point out an issue or two for the writer to revise. Once is acceptable. But more than twice require additional charge.

Here is how I stated it on my Statement of Work template:

REVISION: Edits will be avoided at all costs and are not anticipated except in extreme circumstances. An article may be returned to me only once for revision at the sole discretion of the client. Revision will be done within 24 to 48 hours upon return. Succeeding revisions, if any, will be charged as per the writing rates stated below.

Also, in order to avoid confusion, it is better to define clearly in the Statement of Work what satisfaction means. For example, my current client has defined that all works should be 100% unique or 0% plagiarized. Although there are instances when direct quotes from sources are all over the Internet, these would show a result of 97% unique or 3% plagiarized, which is still acceptable within the principle of fair use.

Payment

I guess this is the part why freelancers need to set up contracts with their client in the first place. Getting paid for writing may be fun, but getting paid right is another issue.

This part of the contract should define how much you will charge for what type of project. Specify also how you should be paid (e.g. via PayPal or bank deposit), how much is the deposit, and when and how the balance should be paid.

Here is how I worded mine:

PAYMENT: The total project price is quoted at $xxx.xx USD per month (₱xxx.xx PHP per month). A minimum of 50% down payment is paid up front…
   Payment is done [frequency], no later than [day of the week or month]. Should [day of the week or month] fall on a non-banking day, payment should be made not later than the next banking day. An invoice from me should reach the client no later than the closing of working hours of every [end of pay period].
   International payments will be paid in [currency] via PayPal to [email address]. For direct bank deposit, it should be payable to: [bank details]

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Will You Charge?

Sample Writing and Kill Fee

Here’s the sad and frustrating part. Many clients require sample writing from applicants. A few of them would pay for the sample writing, but most of them don’t. If they belong to the latter, I refer them to my website, blog, or portfolio so they could check it out. If they insist, I won’t bother. Most likely they will pay me lower than my worth.

To avoid this problem, I offer a paid writing sample or paid trial. I charge this the way I charge per article. The Statement of Work specifies that if the client likes the sample, the project will push through. If not, the payment for the writing sample serves as the kill fee.

A paid trial will be done to see if my writing suits the client’s requirements. A writing task will be given and will be paid for at the amount of [amount] per 500 words upon submission. If the paid trial satisfies the client, the project will push through. Paid trial is non-refundable.

The kill fee also serves as a good protection for freelancers who are in the middle of a project. If the client suddenly decides to terminate the project, and the freelance writer is not yet paid for the current task, it would make sense that the payment for the current task would serve as the kill fee. However, this should be stated in the Statement of Work, too. Better specify in the contract how would you like the sample writing, down payment, and kill fee be paid for your protection.

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

Rights, Disclosures, and Non-Compete

We are now reaching the end of the contract. However, there are other issues that need to be discussed.

I usually ghost-write for clients. Thus the issue of copyright should be laid out in the contract. More often than not, I would declare that the copyright belongs to the client on a ghostwritten project. Otherwise, I would declare the full copyright of the article and have my by-line attached to it.

Another issue is the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the client and me. This is especially applicable in ghostwriting projects where we both agree not to publicly (or even privately) tell anyone that I write on the client’s behalf. This is stated in the contract as well.

Since freelance writers get many jobs from different clients, it is common that a writer gets two clients having the same industry or niche. To prevent conflict arising from this situation, I declare and include a non-compete clause in the Statement of Work.

This is how I wrote mine:

RIGHTS, DISCLOSURES, NON-COMPETE: I hold no copyright to the materials created [if this is ghostwritten]. I agree to non-disclosure of rates, processes, and client lists. I agree to refrain from competing with [client or company name] for the same client during the course of this contract.

Execution and Effectivity

This is the last part of the contract. It specifies how I will deliver the Statement of Work to the client, and in what format. It also specifies what will happen if there are changes in the terms and conditions during the course of the project.

Also, I specify the date of effectivity of the contract and when the project should start. If the client can define the date of when the project will end, the contract contains that detail as well. However, most of my freelance writing contracts are open-ended.

EXECUTION BY COUNTERPARTS. This SOW may be executed and delivered via email in PDF format. Any changes in any of the items herein should be done in writing and must be mutually agreed upon.

At the bottom of the contract are two signatures: one for me, and one for the client.

I usually write the terms and conditions on MS Word or Google Docs. Then save it as PDF before sending it to the client. I don’t need to have this notarized because most of the clients don’t want to be hassled, too. However, there are organizations that require the contract to be physically signed and notarized.

My Final Thoughts

A well-constructed Statement of Work (SOW) should be detailed. Otherwise, it will open the door to disputes. Take time to review and polish each section well and make sure to be descriptive and detailed as possible leaving no room for misinterpretation.

Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing and productivity, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

how much will you charge talent fee

How Much Will You Charge?

The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps. – Robert Benchley

The quote above came from American comedian and writer Robert Benchley. Every freelance writer, or other freelancers even, can relate to it. How much should a freelance writer charge is one of the frequent questions asked among writers. Just recently, two readers have consulted me about this.

A freelance writer can charge whatever he or she wants as long as it makes sense for him or her, for the client, and for the market. As long as the freelance writer feels that it’s fair, there is nothing to worry about.

There are people who charge way too much and get those high rates because they’ve built their reputation and their business up and have earned it. I know someone who can demand a million pesos for a book project because she has great writing credentials under her belt.

On the other end of the scale are the other writers who charge way below what they should, unknowingly or deliberately, thus affecting other freelance writers and the market in general.

So how much is fair?

In the course of my freelance writing career, I’ve tried weighing four ways on how to charge a writing project: per word, per page, per project or per piece, and per hour. There are pros and cons for each but let me give you an idea how it works for me.

Per Word

When I got hold of my first copy of Writer’s Digest back in the mid-80’s, I read from the ads that contributing writers would get between $0.05 USD to $0.25 USD per word. At that time, the exchange rate was Php 35.00 = $1.00 USD. I was in high school then and all I could say was, “Wow!”

When I joined the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines (FWGP) in 2012, we had agreed that no Filipino writer should charge below Php 2.00 per word. And yet, some writers accept projects that pay way below that rate.

In fact, I’ve encountered a writing platform that pays writers $6.00 per 500 words. Although there are many writing tasks to grab daily, and an average writer can write up to 3 articles per day, it may look like the rate is fair if converted into Philippine peso. But think again, given the task requirements [like sticking to the SEO keywords and the exact 500 words] plus the time spent on research, writing and polishing the draft, the $6.00 per 500 words is way below the Php 2.00 per word FWGP standard.

When charging a writing project per word, better ask the client for the required word count. Most of my clients for web content require me to write articles 1,200 to 1,500 words long. Only a few would require me to write up to 3,000 words. Since the word count varies, it is easier to set the price per 100 or 500 words. This is much easier and acceptable to both client and me.

According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine dated October 2013, writers may charge from $2.00 USD per 100 words for academic writing, $3.00 USD per 100 words for special reports, $5.00 USD per 250-399 words, and $10.00 USD for 400-500 words for article and content writing. That was almost seven years ago. The rates have changed now. If we are to follow the current FWGP standard, the rate should be $20.00 USD per 500 words.

However, if the client specified a project long enough that charging per word may be too much, I go for the second option: per page.

Related Article: Statement of Work

Per Page

Two years ago, I finished an e-book project that paid me by the page. I’ve checked around and saw that prices per page vary from one writer to another. One source said, it’s $15.00 USD per page. That is around Php 780.00 if converted. The client may say it’s over his or her budget, so be ready with a counter-proposal to meet halfway.

Editing and proofreading services are better charged by the page, whether fiction or nonfiction writing.

However, because of images, charts, diagrams, etc., the text would have to move along adding more pages which could be both an advantage or disadvantage. The more pages I have, the more money I’ll get. However, the not so good thing about it is when I compute for the per word rate, chances are it would go way below than my usual per word rate. Realizing that would make me think twice, my next option is to charge it per project.

Per Project

This is something easy for the client because it’s a flat fee regardless of the project’s length. Also, I have an advantage to figure out how much I would like to get paid without the limitations of word or page count. I just have to factor in the hours and resources spent, in a way that it makes sense to both parties, and still have enough gain at the end.

Projects that require interviews, library research, and other non-writing tasks, etc. are best charged on a per project basis. I think as if I’m going to be paid a salary per month or per week, depending on the project’s time frame. Also, I ask the client how much is his or her budget and I base my quote from it.

The disadvantage of this method is if the project becomes more in-depth than I anticipated and I end up on the losing end. Most freelance writers suffer this kind of trauma — working on a project, being told to revise this and that, hoping to get paid but ends up not being paid due to some unfortunate circumstances, and if ever paid the amount is lower than all the effort.

One way to prevent this is to ask for a down payment to finance the project, and ask for the balance once the project is done. This is stated in my Statement of Work (SOW) along with the project’s details.

If ever the client decides not to continue the project, I usually state in my SOW that the down payment will serve as the “kill fee”. This way, I’m paid for the services rendered during the first days of the project.

If I can’t figure how much the whole project would cost me, then I try charging it per hour instead.

RELATED ARTICLE: Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

Per Hour

This method is fair but tricky at the same time. I’ve scouted around and saw varied rates from $5.00 USD to $40.00 USD. (And I also found a few who charge much higher.) If you try to convert that into Philippine pesos you’ll exclaim, “Wow!”.

I use a timer and an invoicing tool so I could easily charge the client and show him or her how my time was spent in the project. That includes research, Skype calls, writing, and editing. I just have to be conscious of my time and motion and be honest in charging.

I bid for $11.00 USD per hour for two separate writing projects. The British client said, “I guess you’ll just be writing for thirty minutes per item, how’s that?” The Australian client said, “The US dollar rate is too much. How about if it’s in Australian dollars?” In short, I sealed both deals in 2015.

The advantage of being a Filipino is having this kind of opportunity to work with foreign clients and still get comfortable with the rates even if it’s below expectation. Both $5.50 USD and $11.00 AUD were fine with me because I was comfortable with that. Believe me, it was much more than the starting rate I had in freelance writing back in 2012.

I have set a lowest rate where I could still be comfortable and resolve that I should not go lower than that. Also, I factored in other fees like the kill fee, time for research, meetings, and revisions. I check with the client what the project entails then decide which method to use.

To help me decide, I weigh in the pros and cons of each rate in relation to that project. I start proposing for the hourly rate, then go for the per project rate. For small projects, it’s simpler that I start proposing for a per project (or per piece) or per 500 words rate. Then I sent my Statement of Work (SOW) which could also be my contract with the client once it’s signed. The rate will now be sealed.

Among the four methods, I prefer charging by the hour. However, different clients prefer different methods. So this is a tough balancing act and yet I like the variety.

How you’re going to charge the client depends on you. As long as it’s fair for both parties, as long as you’re comfortable with the cost, then it’s fine to charge per hour, per project, per page, or per word. But please, freelance writers, not perhaps.

Tell me what you think of this article or let me know if you have issues regarding talent fee. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

a writer experiencing writer's block

6 Things I Do To Shake Writer's Block Off

Four weeks into 2020, and I’m experiencing writer’s block. My daily writing tracker looks like a chessboard, some squares shaded and some are not.

Last week, I’ve watched a video on YouTube about the two-day rule. It says that when it comes to tracking habits, don’t let yourself take two days off in a row, but you can take two days off in a week. Since then, I followed this rule to force myself to do the things I should do.

However, a few weeks right after the holidays, I felt a burnout. The assignment that I worked on seemed too daunting. It felt like I have to work twice as hard to get things done even though I have SMART goals to motivate me. I felt stagnant and my creative well empty. Yet, I am aware that I need to shake this feeling or writer’s block off.

Here are some of the ways I battle with this stagnancy and keep things exciting and going.

1 – I feed my mind.

I’ve been freelance writing for years now and there are times when I felt that I don’t have anything new to write or a new way to write old content. So I have to feed my mind with useful content to be inspired.

However, lately I’ve been feeding my mind with audio-visual content than text. So this year, I resolved to read more and be inspired by other writers’ writings. And in order for me to reach that goal, I make sure that I spend at least 15 minutes reading a book aside from reading the Bible every morning.

2 – I change my surroundings more often.

I love my work at home life and staying on my desk. However, working at home for a long time can start to feel like I’m stuck and can sometimes creep into my own writing. My writing began to look formulaic or made out of a template. So I try to change the arrangement of my desk every once in a while.

At times, I change my clothes to simulate that I’m going to work in a distant office. And if people here at home asks if I’m going somewhere, I just smile and keep it to myself. But when really stuck, I really go somewhere else — either to a mall, grocery store, bookstore, or fastfood restaurant — and stay there for a while. Then I’ll return with my mind refreshed.

3 – I literally leave things behind.

It is not a good practice to force myself to write even though I knew that my creative well has run dry. Even with a deadline approaching, I’ve learned to leave my writing unattended for a period of time and do something else other than writing.

It seems that I’m slacking off but I’m not. This is the same as number 2. I’m filling my creative well with new ideas as I seek for inspiration.

4 – I take a shower.

Some experts say that taking a shower can induce creativity. Aside from increasing the blood flow in the brain, taking a shower could help me access my brain’s alpha waves.

5 – I do crafts.

For me, coloring books, drawing, cross stitching, crocheting, and the like, feed my inner child. This inner child becomes my source of creativity. Doing these crafts on weekends replenishes my creative well.

6 – I join other writers.

William Turner wrote birds of a kind and color flock and fly together. Fellow writers know how tricky freelance writing and novel writing could be. By joining writers’ groups like Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines, I could get a little empathy and encouragement to feel better.

So here are a few of the things I do to shake off writer’s block. If you do have other ideas, do share it with me by sending me an email. Also, I’m inviting you to join the tribe.

theme

Theme: Does a Story Have to Have a Moral?

Most of us have read Aesop’s fables in our childhood. The four Gospels have their own share of parables. These are just examples of stories that teach a moral lesson about what’s right and wrong.

And it’s effective to the readers because the stories will remind them of those lessons.

While fables and parables are rich with these moral lessons, other forms of fiction convey these in different ways.

Generally, fiction writing don’t rely on moral lessons. Instead, they inject these lessons as a commentary or insights about human experience through the characters and plots. And they are not just lessons, it is more of underlying meanings.

Because most fiction have more characters and subplots, it is common that there are more than one theme running. This makes for a more complex and engaging read.

In fact, readers need not state the story’s theme explicitly. For them, the theme will enrich the reading experience and encourage them to think about the human experience in different and specific ways.

As authors, we don’t need to state the theme overtly. This will make the story too preachy. But if the theme is not strong enough, the story will feel pointless.

Most of the time, authors don’t think of the theme as they set out to write. They focus more on the individual characters and actions and then the theme emerges from those.

For both authors and readers, the story’s meaning doesn’t always come out clearly on the first try. In order for us to identify the theme, it is better to ask ourselves these questions:

  • What is the story all about?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What and why is it important about telling it now?

The theme is best implied, running as an undercurrent beneath the characters and actions. It should come through the action and dialogue rather than forcing or telling the reader what to think.

Tell me what you think about injecting theme in writing fiction. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

internet

How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

Internet is Life

A few days ago, my husband, who is working at night, told me that we didn’t have an Internet connection. So he had to buy a prepaid load at eleven o’clock in the evening to load up our pocket wi-fi so he could get back to work. Fortunately, the next day, our Internet connection became stable.

You see, we are a household that uses the Internet a lot. It’s part of our lifeblood; we couldn’t live without it because it’s part of our livelihood. My husband and I work at home for many years now that we invested not only on computers but also a stable Internet connection.

Life Without Internet

But before I go on, let me tell you something about how life was without the Internet.

I was born in a generation between the old-school and the technological advancements. Thus, I have experienced both worlds and could live, thrive, and survive without the other.

I was in second year high school (today’s grade 8) when I learned how to type. My father taught me the finger placement on the typewriter. Then, slowly I learned how to type without looking at my fingers and started to type fast.

Two years later, I had a computer as my elective subject in fourth year high school (today’s grade 10). For the first time, I learned BASIC computer language. BASIC stands for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Back then, a black and white TV could be used as a computer monitor, and a floppy disk measuring 5.25” could contain 360KB of data.

We don’t have a desktop computer at home then. So I still rely on a typewriter for school projects.

Eight years later, during my second college course, we were taught WordStar, Lotus 123, Print Shop, and dBase IV. Floppy disks then were the 5.25” and 3.5” which can store 1.44MB of data. CPUs then do have two floppy disk drives for each type.

Two years later, I was introduced to Windows Office ‘95. It was the first time I saw GUI icons to click that would do away with memorizing keystrokes for commands.

Then the late ‘90s came. For the first time, I was able to use a dial-up Internet connection and had my first email address. At this point, I’m already proficient in MS Word and Excel, plus Adobe Pagemaker.

But I still don’t have a computer at home.

Yes, even though I have an email address and have access to the Internet, I still rely on my typewriter for writing. And if ever it needed to be a computerized copy, I would go to the Internet cafe, rent a computer by the hour, save it on a 3.5” floppy disk, and have it printed on a dot matrix, ink jet, or laser printer all for a fee.

It was only in 2003 when we had a desktop computer at home. The most reliable operating systems then were Windows ‘98 and Windows 2000. Typing became much easier because the keyboard was soft to the touch, there’s no need to move the typewriter carriage to the left as I reach the end of the line, and there’s no more need to feed paper.

Oh, those were the days, my friend.

How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

As time goes by, the Internet has evolved and new technologies have sprung. Today’s Internet is far different from the Internet in the late ‘90s. It’s difficult to identify an aspect of our lives that hasn’t been touched by the Internet. It has become so innovative and so in demand that it has transformed the whole world. So much so that the changes brought by the Internet has caused us to reinvent the way we work.

Recently, three of my blog posts that dealt with working from home were noticed by readers like Nick Porter of BroadbandSearch.net. The blog post he shared inspired me to write this one.

It’s obvious that the Internet has made a huge impact on human civilization. Let me enumerate how it affected my career:

Working From Home

my remote work officeI’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I’ve worked for almost seven years in a large US-based BPO company. It was there that I’ve experienced working in an almost digital environment.

When I decided to work at home, I applied what I’ve learned which made my transition from corporate to home set-up easy.

Back in 2012, freelancing and independent contract work were starting to gain popularity. With websites like Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance combined), OnlineJobs PH, PeoplePerHour, etc., freelancing has become more acceptable as the years go by. The Internet made me find full-time jobs as a freelancer.

With the heavy traffic and long commute that stress people everyday, we expect more people to shift from office work to work at home setup and/or freelancing soon.

Independence

What I liked about working from home is the freedom from the stress and pressure of an office environment. I got more sense of autonomy as I worked my way through my freelance writing business.

On the other hand, I still need to discipline myself to become more focused and efficient in order for me to succeed.

Working Hours

Freelance writing has made me free to choose the hours I want to work so much so that I’m no longer working 40 to 48 hours a week. But there are times that I am working almost 24/7 because of my passion.

There were clients that still follow the traditional 9 to 5 schedule that I was forced to follow their time zone. But there are newer clients that embrace the concept of flexibility regardless of their location or time zone.

Communication & Transparency

One of the things I’ve learned from working in the BPO industry is transparency. And to achieve this, communication is the key.

The Internet has made communication easier and has expanded the media. Aside from email and websites, we now have SMS, chat, VOIP, streaming media, cloud storage, and the like. This has made the world smaller in terms of reaching people around the globe.

Collaborative Work

Start.me appWorking with clients located abroad would be challenging if there’s no Internet. Today, the Internet provides productivity tools that we can use to collaborate, allowing multiple people to work on a document at the same time.

e-Learning

The Internet has made it easier for me to enroll in courses I’m interested in. This can help me take my career to the next level as I thrive in the freelance community.

Security

However, the Internet also has its own downside. While I work from home using it, I’m also aware of its dangers. In fact, working dependently on the Internet has a bigger risk now that there is so much going on online. Hackers and scammers can pose as prospective clients. That’s why I have to be my own first line of defense against cybercrime. I also need to have a working knowledge on how to detect threats and what to do if this happens.

Now that I’m already settled working from the comfort of my home, Internet connection (and electricity that runs it) have become my necessities. It is difficult for me to live without it because my livelihood depends on it.

How about you? Are you also dependent on the Internet?

RELATED ARTICLE: 9 Ways the Internet Has Changed the Workplace

Let me know how the Internet affected your life and career or tell me what you think of this article. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, or productivity, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the overused questions asked of writers is where do their ideas come from. It may be too trivial, too basic, but too important not to be ignored.

Writers, like other artists, maximize the use of their five senses and translate them into their art. Writers, like other artists, are keen observers. So keen that they know what color is on top of the traffic light, how many tines are there in a fork, or what is inscribed at the bottom of a paper bill — simple, everyday objects that seem too obvious for ordinary people to take notice of. Aside from the use of the senses, here are other sources of ideas:

Newspapers

The old-fashioned broadsheet or tabloid is still a good source of story ideas. Scan the news and even the other parts of the newspaper like the classified ads, you’ll get an idea or two to jump start a story or an article. An article about a female college student/prostitute who killed her “sugar daddy” gave me an idea of a scene I wrote a few months back.

Magazines

The glossy magazines feature different kinds of stories, so varied that some of these magazines became specialized or focused into a particular niche. Scan the stories, even the fillers, you’ll get some catchy phrases and intriguing ideas to add into your writing. For example, an article I read about freelance writing inspired me to write my opinion on it. Also, catchy phrases become titles of a future article or novel.

Books

Reading not only hones your vocabulary skills, but also inspire you to write your next story. Reading a not-so-familiar book many years ago triggered me to write my novel, Number One Fan.

Biographies

Lives of other people show us how was it living in their own time. We get to see not just a character but also a lifestyle different from ours. Somehow their lives inspire us to write a story for others to learn from.

Stories and legends

There are some stories that keep on burning because they don’t die and people remember or mention them repeatedly. Folklore, fables, and even urban legends could be an inspiration of your next novel.

Dreams

Believe it or not, dreams could also be a good source of story ideas. My husband’s dream became my inspiration of a comics manuscript I’m planning to write.

Songs

I used to write down nice phrases that came from songs. The lyrics of Randy Crawford’s “People Alone” inspired me to write I’m Greg, Short For Gregarious.

Ask “What if?”

 Asking this question somehow challenges you to provide possible answers and in the process creates a possible story.

 Overheard remarks

Eavesdropping for the sake of getting ideas? Why not? I write these overheard remarks and make them patterns for dialogues.

Once I got an idea, I put them down on writing. As a writer, I should not rely on memory because there are times memories fail. A writer is a journalist and therefore should have a handy notebook and pen to jot down these ideas that burst abruptly.

Now, it is your turn. Go get yourself a notebook for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas. The size and thickness should suit your need and desire. I suggest that you put tabs to separate different sources or categories. Make it a habit to write it down and don’t let it escape your memory. Happy idea hunting!

Let me know if you have done this and how did it work for you. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.