Who’s the smart one?

Sorry dad. You can’t win. I’ve tried.



Freelance Writing: 3 Tips to Starting from Scratch

I was recently asked about my experiences as a freelance writer, how to get started, and where to go to get freelancing jobs. While there are plenty of web resources available for aspiring freelancers to learn from pros with plenty more experience than me–like here and here, and here too– I also want to share some of the things I’ve learned, in the hopes of helping those whose situation isn’t so different from how I used to be.

So without further ado:

1. It’s possible to start from nothing.

One of the biggest challenges for me when I started out was my portfolio. It wasn’t necessarily empty, but close enough to it. I always dreaded the question “can I see more of your work”, because I simply didn’t have anything else to show. This was also a problem in that I sometimes wouldn’t have anything relevant to the project for which I was bidding (only having magazine articles when the client wanted website copy, for example). This closed a lot of doors for me; it also became a psychological block that kept me from aggressively hunting projects.

But there are clients who are willing to take on new writers if they show a good command of the language (whether you’re writing in English or otherwise), and if the writers can show they understand the clients’ needs. You may have to work for free (or close to it), but at this point in your career you should be focusing on building your resume.

Think portfolio, not profit.

2. If you don’t have clients, be your own.

No need to cool your heels in front of the keyboard if nobody’s awarding you any work. If you don’t have any active projects, this is a good chance to work on your own. I recommend you spend time working on your writing skills by practicing the kind of writing you want to sell. Are you planning on writing websites? Practice writing for an imaginary client and see how your work stands up to similar, existing websites. If it’s good enough, you may even be able to show it as a part of your portfolio.

And just because you’re practicing it doesn’t mean you can’t get paid for it. You can submit articles to sites like Constant Content and get paid a (very) small commission for either page views or for sold articles (method of compensation depends on the site). Some sites only pay to U.S. or North American writers, though, so read their T&Cs carefully. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family if they need any writing/editing work done for their businesses. If you’re feeling brave, you can pitch your articles to magazines and ezines (MOTL).

Practice makes profit.

3. Grow slow.

Developing a creative freelancing business is very tricky. Here, you are the factory.

At first, you will have no idea how long it will take to create the product your client ordered. It’s all too easy to bite off more than you can chew and take on too many jobs or over-promise on a deadline. Job sites like eLance let clients review their contractors, so doing a bad job will mar your record and make it harder for you to get more work.

Until you have a better idea of your own work process, and how much time you need to finish a piece, play it safe. I suggest you do it one project at a time. Give yourself enough breathing room to finish the work properly. Only then should you move on to the next.

Work before you run.

Avi’s 10 Baby Achievements of 2011

A baby year passes by very fast (even though it doesn’t seem like it when you’re rocking her to sleep at 3 AM on a Wednesday morning). They say to treasure your baby moments as they grow from infant to toddler and more. This is sound advice. As such, I’ve devoted this blog post to listing down 10 of the most significant milestones that Avi has hit since last year.

Note: Flossy, if you could be my editor and let me know which ones I’ve missed?

1. She walks (and runs)! At this time last year, Flossy and I were fretting about her not being able to crawl by herself. We’d be prodding and pulling and encouraging her to move even an inch. Now it’s a struggle to keep her from running into the wall. I wonder how much those baby leashes are…

2. Stair-climbing. This little feat is notable enough that it gets its own separate entry. She not only crawls; she can walk up stairs the same way a normal person would. We’ve been trying to teach her to hold on to the bannister while she does it, but she might be getting a bit overconfident.

3. She eats solid food. Milk is still her favorite food of choice, but it’s about time she munched on something more substantial than paper. I mean, I know that A4 sheets have lots of fiber, but come on. She just needs bribes to eat some of the bland stuff.

4. She can talk (and listen)! She’s speaking her own language right now: “emme” is her word for “milk” for example. And she can understand us some of the time, too. We can prove it. Sorry, Avi. No more excuses. When we tell you to stop, we know you know what we’re saying.

5. Went from a size N diaper to size 6.  This is a nice way of me saying she’s huge. I can count on one hand the number of babies we’ve met that are smaller than her (and I’m including babies a year older than she is). She’s adorable, cuddly, and weighs as much as a sack of rice. No kidding.

6. She’s a certified techie. Avi isn’t content with being able to unlock the iPad. She deletes apps, memorizes her favorite ones and navigates to them, and watches youtube videos (as long as they’re stored on favorites). Heck, she even helped Flossy’s mom find the app that she (mom) wanted! Did I mention she’s 13 months?

7. She’s friendlier. This comes with a diaper-load of caveats. Avi has several distinct rules that you need to follow if you stand a chance of being in the same room with her without making her cry. I’ll elaborate on another post.

8. She’s not co-sleeping. By “co-sleep” I mean she’s not sleeping on our bed anymore. Of course, Flossy and I had to move our mattress to the baby room floor, and put Avi’s mattress down next to us. Moving to another room as another step entirely.

9. Aping her elders. Hooo boy. This is fun but terrifying. This is the stage where Flossy and I have to watch everything we do lest she pick it up. She already knows how to wave “hello” and clap her hands and stuff, but bad habits can form pretty quickly I hear.

10. Parent-specific behavior. She knows what she can get away with and with whom. When she wants someone to pick her up and walk her around, for example, she goes to me. When she’s hungry, she cries for mama. So what exactly does she ask me to do? Well, there’s a reason this blog is named “Spoiler”.

There are more, of course, but these are the most significant. Looking back, it’s a shock to see how much Avi has grown in just 1 year. It makes me wonder what else she’s got up her sleeve for 2012 and what the next update of this list will contain.