If there's one thing I know, it's blogging. Having been doing it for four years I can safely say that blogging is what I do best. It's also what made me forget formal article/essay writing for a while. So when I discovered NaBloPoMo yesterday, my ears perked up and my eyes got shiny. I know, bad analogy.
To be honest, I can't even pronounce the abbreviation. It's easier to say National Blog Posting Month than NaBloPoMo. After deciding not to participate in NaNoWriMo (at least it rhymes!), I came across this. Needless to say, I found it interesting! So what if I can't pronounce it? It sounds like fun and it is completely doable!
I signed up today, but I registered my personal blog. For this blog, I have plans. And NaBloPoMo is not featured in them. Those 'plans' are that I have an open list of topics that I will be blogging about here. If I do the NaBloPoMo here, I'd run out of them and frankly not do justice to the posts. And I have this innate habit of rambling after a long day at work...and these days I am having long days thanks to the work that I've gotten (Post coming up on that very soon).
So, interested in my personal, non-freelancing life? Send me an email, tell me about yourself and assure me you're not a stalker/plagiariser/antagonise-r and I'll send you a link.
Thursday, October 30, 2008 | 2 Comments
This year was the first time I heard of NaNoWriMo. Alright, I admit, I was pretty out of it before I started freelancing. You can't blame me! I was pursuing a bachelor's degree! Having the time of your life in college is some serious hard work, you know?
I heard about NaNoWriMo at the Muse Conference where every one was talking about it and a lot of wonderful people kept trying to get me to sign up. I thought long and hard about it. I really want to sign up. But I haven't. I'm going to sit this year out.
Why? Because I've never written a short story let alone attempt a 50,000 word novel! See how huge that number is? But If I'd known how to write fiction, I would have signed up in a jiffy. The other reason I'm not even considering signing up is that November will be filled with a lot of travelling this year. Okay so that's as lame an excuse as the first one.
Here it is, the real reason: I am petrified. I haven't had the time to process such a huge challenge. I'm not confident in my abilities to write fiction and I hate not reaching the finish line which means that if I don't complete the 50,000 word I'd be berating myself endlessly and knowing me would steer even further from fictional writing.
So, next year I'll be signing up. I'll have worked on a story and plot, outlined my chapters, learned how to write dialogues that move the story forward, and envisioned a start, middle and end. Sound like a lot of work? Hey I know writers who are all geared up for the challenge! They have their pencils sharpened or fingers poised over their keyboards already in anticipation!
Next year I'm going to be one of them.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 | 3 Comments
You know how the minute you hit 'submit' to something you get the best opening line of an article or comment you wrote which didn't feel right yet you sent it anyway? No? Never happened to you? Oh dear! are those your pants on fire?
Let me save my pants by stating that it has happened to me enough times to merit a post about it. The first time it happened was my very first freelance article back home. I had agonized over the beginning of the piece for three days with no luck. The day the article went for printing it hit me. That perfect opening line. The hook that was needed to burst into the entertainment industry as an up and coming freelancer. That catch phrase that would have made my editor smugly claim me as one of her finds. But it was too late and I ended up as one of the many freelancers in the field who did just okay in her first published piece.
But this isn't what this post is about. It's about my latest miss of the hits and misses series. Darren Rowse of Problogger did a post in he invited his readers promote their blog in 140 characters or less. By the time I got to the post there were already 598 comments on the post. I randomly went through about 30. After the first few they all started sounding the same. Sadly when submitted my comment, it did too.
I sat with my fingers poised over the keyboard for nearly five minutes trying to come up with a sales pitch for my blog that was 140 characters long. I linked this blog to my name and came up with 140 characters alright.
Do you see what's wrong with this? There's nothing about the comment that is standing out. The 'X' factor is missing which would make Darren and other readers (those who make it to comment # 599) sit up and take notice. So what happens when I click on 'submit'? The perfect sales pitch arrives in my head.
The trials and triumphs of a newbie freelancer. The when, where, what and how much of freelancing as learned through practicing the trade.
Hi. My name is Samar Owais and 'The Base' is your beginning.
Sixty-four characters is all it would have taken to give my sales pitch that punch. The above sentence is cocky. It would have made people raise eyebrows as they'd have mocked the writer for her ignorance. It even has shock value. Seasoned freelancers don't like anyone telling them that someone thinks they should begin again, which is what the statement will sound like to most. It has the X factor which separates me from the sea of comments.
Whatever their reasons it would have made people click on my blog which would have been linked under it's name i.e The Writing Base. They would have skimmed it quickly to see what I was harping about with my bold statement at Problogger. And they would have found out that the blog was about a new freelancer who was struggling to find her first gig. They would have identified with where I am today.
Every freelancer has been where I am now. New to the field with little or no credentials I am every freelancer's humble beginning. Read more ...
Saturday, October 25, 2008 | 2 Comments
The Muse Conference was a gold mine. It was hectic, it was crazy, I wasn't able to keep up but it was still the best thing to happen to me as a freelancer. With so much to learn and so many workshops on offer I was high on information overload even before the conference had officially started! I was lucky to see a blog post about it in one of the countless writing blogs I was browsing in the beginning.
The different workshops in the conference touched on almost every aspect of writing. From how to inject humour in your writing to how to set up your website - it was all talked and taught about. All week long there were discussions and assignments in the forums and one scheduled chat per workshop which was a Q&A session.
The conference has been held yearly for three years now. And the best part about it is that it's free. Not a dime was asked in fee. One would think that free stuff on the web are usually either scams or lacking in quality. The Muse however was neither of those. It was thoroughly planned and extremely well managed. There were rules for the presenters and the participants. All the chats had moderators and specific guidelines for people to ask questions.
The people who were hosting the workshops were published authors and successful writers with years of experience under their hat. The master mind behind this conference is Lea Schizas. I'll be honest, I have no clue who she is in the publishing world except that she's an editor for Red Rose Publishing. In fact, I don't know who most people were there. Which was great because I wasn't intimidated and freely asked questions.
As a newbie, I learned what I was already doing right, what more I could do and what else I can do in the future. The hand outs prepared by the presenters about their respective workshops were given about a month before the conference. The purpose of which was for us to go through them, learn and note any questions we have for the forum and chat. The best thing about it is that it doesn't stop once the conference is over. A lot of workshop presenters have made it possible for us to contact them even after the conference with any question we might have. There's also a weekly chat set up by Lea for the same purpose and includes mingling time as well.
Like I said, the Muse Conference is a writer's gold mine. Read more ...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | 0 Comments
Poverty is defined as 'The state of having little or no money and few or no material possessions.' How many of us have experienced this state? How many of us even know what it feels like to be dirt poor? So poor that you don't know where your next meal is going to come from? How many of us have done something to help?
To put it in its simplest form. There are two kinds of people; those who talk and those who turn their talk into actions.
Talking about poverty is great. It builds up awareness, it sparks debate about what needs to be done. It also makes us thankful for all that we have. We feel the pain of homeless people, who get only one meal a day and have no idea where their next meal will come from.
We've all heard of Kevin Carter, the South African Photographer who won the Pulitzer for his photograph of a sudanese child trying to crawl to a United Nations food camp located a kilometer away while a vulture stood to attention nearby waiting for its prey to die. Carter's suicide was attricbuted to the atrocities he saw while travelling through South Africa covering the apartheid. The man saw poverty up close and personal like we can never bring ourselves to see or imagine.
How many of us can bring ourselves to see this collection of pictures on poverty?
So we talk and we say how bad poverty is and how it should be brought under control or even eliminated. Yet what do we do to play our part in eliminating poverty? How many of us think sending money to charities is enough? How many of us make the effort to find out what they're doing to help erradicate poverty? Some would prefer to help someone themselves and yet they don't know how to do that.
One option is Kiva.org which allows you to lend your money directly to an entrepreneur in any part of the world. Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world. Eradicating poverty doesn't mean that you feed someone and put a roof over them. Those are short term solutions. What happens when you can't support them? Kiva.org lets you empower the person you're lending your money to establish and grow a business which will enable them to lift themselves from poverty. Once the loan is repaid, it can be lent again to another entrepreneur. In some countries a $100 loan can go a long long way.
So we've done the talking bit. It's time to do something to help elleviate poverty.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 | 3 Comments
When you're starting out, the real challenge lies in finding work. For freelancers with no experience or credentials, online marketplaces are a good place to start. There are many advantages to writing for marketplaces.
When I started looking for work some two months ago, all I found was $1-$5 articles. No one was willing to take on an inexperienced freelancer whose entire portfolio was related to an industry that was not known to the western world and about topics that they weren't interested in. Examples being, my write ups covering the private concerts of upcoming rock bands of Pakistan and opinion article on Muslim fashion. All I got were rejection letters unless I wanted to write 500 words for $1.
With marketplaces, if your article gets picked, you're paid a respectable amount. The articles that don't get picked are kept on the website servers and they earn money through the traffic they generate and the ads placed on them. Constant-Content has the option to put up an article under an option where your article is bought with one time publishing rights. It can be bought multiple times by different buyers giving you additional income.
Another advantage of marketplaces is that they help build a freelancer's portfolio. When you're new, freelancing is more of an unchartered territory. You're not sure about what to write and who to write for. You keep reading that freelancers have a better chance of making it if they carve a niche out for themselves but you haven't explored enough topics or gained enough experience to decide upon a niche. The upside to marketplaces like Helium and Demand Studios is that they give you topics to write, complete with article guidelines. Perfect guidance for someone who is wondering where to start.
Marketplaces also often have a great feedback system in place. Their forums are full of helpful writers who are willing to help you out in your writing and answer any questions you might have. A website like Constant-Content even has an editorial team that goes through your article to see if it passes muster before it is put up for sale. If it doesn't they get back to you with feedback and once you've fixed the problems in your articles you're free to resubmit the article. The editors at Demand Studios send the article back for rewriting only once if the article doesn't meet with approval. If it still fails to meet the criteria then the topic is sent back to the pool of titles available to writers.
A lot of marketplace websites also provide online mentoring along with feedback. They assign online mentors who coach you and generally walk you through the glitches and hitches in your writing. Online mentoring is optional as not everyone likes to be told that they're doing something wrong or that they need to change some aspect of their writing.
The more you write, the more your confidence as a writer grows. Since I'm just starting out there are days when I'm afraid to apply for a writing gig simply because I don't have the experience. Keep reminding yourself that you won't gain experience if you don't write. Writing for marketplaces also keeps your confidence up when you're starting out. Every article written is experienced gained and credentials made.
One of the most difficult things is the wait after submitting an article. Especially if you're writing for marketplaces like Helium where they have deadlines by which publishers can buy your article. The one week wait to see whether your article was good enough to make the cut is hard to go through. So is the disappointment when your article isn't picked. The key is to keep writing and not lose hope. A good writing job is out there for you.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | 1 Comments
How does one start a freelance career? Do you just wake up one day and decide to become a freelancer? Or does a lot of thought go into it and you plan to the last detail before making the jump? For me it was more circumstances and a lot of thought before I started out. Recently married, moved to a new country, and without a driver's license. The options available to me were limited.
I also wanted to get my Masters degree but a thorough search of the country's universities made me decide to opt for a distance learning program. Soon I was bored out of my head staying at home and becoming paranoid that my brain was rotting. Blogging only took so much time and hardly challenged the mind. Adjusting in a new country where I had no family or friends was also taking its toll.
Having done freelance writing and volunteer blogging work back home I soon started thinking of doing it here. But contacts back home had assignment for the entertainment industry which is what I wrote for there and being geographically inaccessible meant I had to find work elsewhere. That's when I started wondering what was there in terms of online work. I couldn't work for a newspaper or a magazine here because I did not have a driving license and getting one here is a major hassle and takes a lot of time. Barely anyone passes on the first try and the waiting period was five months!
I knew in the given circumstances my laptop was my best friend and also the tool of my chosen trade. Unlike the majority of people, I did not start freelancing to earn a full time income. I started to keep myself busy and productive. Why did I choose freelancing? Because I've been writing ever since I discovered blogging at BlogSpot some four years ago. And because I'm good at it.
Being a good writer isn't enough to succeed though. The amount of effort and work that happens before you actually land a writing job is another post for another time.
Saturday, October 11, 2008 | 0 Comments
The title says it all. I'm a new freelance writer with barely enough experience. How I gain experience, build my portfolio and find work that pays (and pays well) will all be written about. I promise not to leave out a single detail. No matter how embarrassing or stupid my mistakes and experiences, they will all be written about.
- How much did I make off my first article?
- What lofty ideals did I enter freelancing with?
- What standards did I give up in order to find work?
- Oh and I'll even tell how long it took me to put up this website. It's an embarrassingly long time, which is why it'll make for a good (horror) story about a lazy and scared freelance writer.
Will I update everyday? Rarely. I've been blogging long enough to know my habits. A couple of times a week is all I can promise. Will all my posts be about my journey as a freelance writer? Not at all! I'll be talking about everything and anything that strikes my fancy. But I will make an effort to incorporate the topic of writing in it. So be prepared for a post about ColdPlay and stay tuned to see how I bring in the business of writing in it.
Will my posts be any good? Won't you let me know?
Read more ...
Thursday, October 09, 2008 | 0 Comments