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Category: Authorpreneur

5 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Being a Freelancer

There is a good reason behind the recent trend of quitting regular jobs to go freelance. People started to realize that nobody is forcing them to choose jobs that dictate the tempo of their lives in a way that makes them feel stressed or even depressed. Millions of people have already decided to become freelancers instead. Will you follow their example? Who knows – life is pretty unpredictable.

Regardless of your career path, it is good to know that you can always opt for alternative sources of income. If you are interested to find out more about benefits of going freelance, take a look.

Relative independence

One of the greatest advantages of going freelance is the fact that it’s much easier to organize your day.

While working from 9 AM to 5 PM five days a week has its pros, the truth is that there is no worker who genuinely enjoys being forced to come to the worksite every single morning. There are tens of possible situations that could make coming to the workplace at 9 AM almost impossible. What if a person has a terrible headache or stomach pain? Would they really be of any help to their colleagues? Or what if they’ve had an awful night because someone close to them had an accident or any other kind of a problem? Unfortunately, not many employers understand this issue.

Freelance jobs allow people to organize their business hours relatively independently. Depending on the nature of the job, a person who hires a freelance worker usually sets deadlines too. However, unlike other employers, they don’t interfere with a freelancer’s time management. Two things are very important though – to meet deadlinesand complete tasks in accordance with their expectations.

Multitasking (and more sources of income)

For many people, having only one source of income isn’t enough. But if a person works forty hours a week, it is highly unlikely that they’ll be able to find additional jobs. And, even if they do, would they really be able to manage all tasks successfully?

On the other hand, freelancers are far less limited when it comes to multitasking. For example, one can work as a pet sitter in the morning, and finish their data entry tasks in the afternoon. Similarly, many freelancers get paid to take surveys onlinefrom home because they have enough time to do as many surveys as they want. Online surveys can be filled out in a restaurant or on public transport. It’s no wonder that online surveys have become one of the most popular ways to earn extra money.

Better social life

Going freelance enables people to manage their personal commitments more easily. In comparison with other workers, freelancers are far less likely to miss family dinners or night outs with friends.

Because they are enabled to organize their working hours in a way that benefits their daily routine, freelancers who are highly organized have much more spare time. Not only does this make them more satisfied with their professional life, but it also positively affects their work performance. Having this in mind, companies who care for performance measurement are bound to be satisfied with the performance of an individual who works as a freelancer.

Both well-being and the quality of social lifeare tightly linked to a person’s work performance. Workers can’t fully enjoy their jobs unless they are given enough time to share the benefits of the efforts they put into work with their loved ones. For example, a person who works as a freelance event manager is probably going to have a vivacious social life because of the number of people they get in touch with.

Stress-free work environment

Another immensely important benefit of going freelance is that nobody is around to make noise or create unnecessary drama. Unfortunately, workers around the globe are victims of mobbing. Surviving workplace mobbing can be very challenging even for the more experienced workers. Sadly, in many cases, the employer is the one who is responsible for the harassment. This generally leads to a high rate of employee turnover.

On the other hand, freelancers are able to create their own work environment. Setting up a home office is a smart move for anyone who decides to become a freelancer. Not only is it far less likely that a person will be bothered by a representative of a company who hired them, but they could also be in full control of the working hours.

Social media managers usually have nicely set up home offices because of the time they spend using their laptops and phones. In order to satisfy the needs of their clients, people who manage social media accounts of other individuals and companies have to feel completely comfortable with their work environment. Similarly, bloggers and freelance writers will produce better content if their home offices are set up according to their own standards. Needless to say, it is essential to obtain office supplies. However, adding plants and scented candles will make a real difference. While plants reduce stress, scented candles help freelancers work in a completely relaxed atmosphere. Not to mention that listening to music during work is only possible if one works from the comfort of their own home.

Healthier lifestyle

Arguably the most important benefit of going freelance is the healthier lifestyle that comes with it.

When a person works in a stress-free environment and is completely happy with their professional life, their health improves too. Scheduling in accordance with their habits allows freelancers to regularly visit gyms and yoga centers. Besides, they don’t need to worry about whether they’ll have enough time (and money) to carefully plan their meals.

Extra benefits of going freelance include more time for outdoor activities, more time for learning new skills, more money for traveling, as well as more possibilities for soul-fulfilling relationships.

All things considered, it’s really hard to argue against becoming a freelancer. This is because jobs are supposed to complement peoples’ lives, which is far more likely to happen if they opt for a freelance lifestyle. The possibilities that come with such a decision are practically limitless. At the end of the day, the way we feel about our own lives is what matters the most. In 2018, there is no need to stick to your present job if it doesn’t enhance your life in any way.

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Writing as a Business: EBook Distribution Options

Now that we have talked about the Amazon exclusive vs. wide distribution options, we need to talk about the options besides Amazon. What do we mean, exactly by wide distribution? How do you get your books on all of those different channels? It sounds like a daunting task.

It can seem like it at first, and there are services that will actually do that work for you as well. You can use services like Smashwords, Draft2Digital, or Pronoun. These are called aggregate publishing platforms, and they will handle the distribution of your eBooks either for a fee or a percentage of royalties.

The video below talks about the different aggregate platforms, but not too much about the pros and cons of each.

 

Of course, if you want to follow Dale’s rabbit trail of other videos about eBook distribution, just understand that they contain his experience and opinion (much as the information that follows here follows mine). I’d recommend you doing your own research, because no one’s book or journey is the same, and what works for one person may not work for you.

They key to these aggregate platforms is they are much like having a publisher: they take a percentage of your royalties or a fee for distribution, which means you make less money than if you did all that distribution work yourself. At the same time, you don’t have to do all of that distribution work.

Another factor to consider is that only a few authors and publishers can still publish their work on Google Play. Some of these aggregates, like Pronoun, are among them.

You can publish your book to the individual platforms as well. We talked briefly about Amazon already, but here are the others (in no particular order).

Apple iBooks

Apple is the second largest eBook platform in the US market. The Apple platform, however, could stand some improvements.

The reason is simply this. As with other Apple initiatives that have fallen off the radar of top management, iBooks, while it has some cool features for creating enhanced books, has languished. Apple is known for being the best in many areas, and in this one they fall short.

Outside of using an aggregate, uploading books to the iBooks Author platform can be a bit tricky, and is something it will take time for you to master. While many authors get good results from iBooks, it is a small percentage compared to Amazon.

Still, if you are going to distribute widely, iBooks is almost a must. You will need to have an Apple ID, connect that ID to iBooks author, and ideally upload a properly formatted ePub edition of your book.

There are tons of tutorials out there, and once you have mastered the process it will go smoothly.

Barnes and Noble

The bad news is this: the Nook itself and Barnes and Noble eBooks are decreasing in popularity, and it looks like at any moment the entire division could disappear. Of course, so could Barnes and Noble, whose attempt to compete with Amazon has met with constant obstacles struggles in the big-box, brick and mortar world of publishing, a tough spot to be at the moment.

Does this mean you should not publish on Barnes and Noble? Nope. It just means you need to be aware that although Nook still has a faithful, but small following, you may wake up one day to see that your books, and everyone else’s, have disappeared from Barnes and Noble virtual shelves. Another step in that direction was the recent closure of the Nook Forums online.

Uploading is pretty easy overall, but like iBooks, the process can seem painful the frist few times. It can be mastered, or again done through an aggregate.

I have known some authors who have had decent sales success through Barnes and Noble, and others who have had so few sales they have given up the platform altogether.

Kobo

If Barnes and Noble is in the sunset of their business lives, Kobo is in a pretty good spot. In Europe and Canada, Kobo has a large presence.

Publishing on Kobo is, therefore, well worth pursuing. One of the advantages of self-publishing in the digital world is that your audience is worldwide, not just in your town, your state, or even your country.

Once you have created a Kobo account, publishing directly with them is pretty easy. Your book can be uploaded as a .doc or .dcox file, and Kobo will handle the conversion process, or you can choose to upload an ePub yourself.

You can preview how the file will look on Kobo once you have uploaded it if you have an online ePub reader.

Depending on your genre and your marketing efforts, you will may get a large number of sales on Kobo, certainly enough to make this relatively simple upload process worthwhile. Developing an international following can also spread to your Amazon sales, and even your sales on other platforms.

Overdrive for Libraries

The Easiest way to get your ebook onto overdrive and available to libraries is by using an aggregate. The issue for Overdrive with most authors is the marketing piece of this: simply because your work is available to libraries does not mean they will actually carry it. Library budgets are small, and the ones for digital books are even smaller.

The other debate is ownership. While a library can buy your print book if they wish, when they “buy” your eBooks, they are only getting the rights to use them in a specific way. Therefore, unlike print books, the library is not fulfilling one of its primary missions: preservation.

Still, if you can get enough people to request your books, a library will carry them, and if you sell enough books, this will happen organically.

Either way, if you are distributing widely, you should find a way to offer your book on Overdrive, even if you don’t end up making a lot of money from them.

The library dynamic is changing. Overdrive is offering new pricing models that make it easier for libraries to offer more eBooks. Don’t neglect this important area in your distribution, and again in your marketing further down the road.

Others

The list of other sites where you can distribute your book is huge, and could go on for days. In fact, you could spend days uploading your books to all of them (another argument for using an aggregator) only to get few or no sales from some of the lesser known markets.

However, you never know when one sale will lead to another, and you will develop a new audience. Many authors take the chance on these smaller markets for that reason alone, and it is not a bad strategy if you can do all of them quickly.

As we mentioned in a previous post, for many wide distribution is the best answer, and once you are distributing widely you might as well go all the way.

Look, anyone who pretends to tell you they have all of the answers to the distribution puzzle is probably lying through their teeth. What works for one author will not always work for you, and even if it works once for you, it may not continue to work the same way the next time. The publishing world is constantly changing, and you need to keep up if you are going to treat your writing as a business.

Next, we will talk about protecting your work, and the risk of piracy involved with wide distribution and aggregate sites.

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Business 101 for Writers: The Book Cover

So far in this series, we have covered a whole lot of ground. You have written the best book you can, revised it, and now you have hired an editor. Currently, they are working on one of the four rounds of editing your book will go through before a proofreader goes over it one last time.

If you are not writing your next book, you are sitting at home wondering what you should do next. The answer depends on your path to publication. If you are going the self-publishing route, it is time to source a cover by hiring a cover designer.

By the way, I don’t care if you are a graphic designer and if you design covers for other people as a part of your business (one of your multiple streams of revenue I am sure you have set up). You should never create your own book cover. Or at least most of the time you should not. I have known a few exceptions: authors that could both write a book and create a cover for it, and sometimes it turns out okay.

Most of the time it doesn’t. Your cover will come out very narcissistic and probably too busy. You will want to include too many elements of the story in one place rather than focusing on one central theme.

You should, however, know enough about cover design to know a good one when you see one. You should be knowledgeable about several design elements, and you should get second opinions about your cover before you give the artist the final yes.

The Bad

We will start with the bad, and sometimes funny covers people have either created for their own books or had their four-year-old sister create for them using a box of crayons. A cover can be awful for a number of reasons: font, the photo, poor Photoshop skills, lack or relevance, wrong genre, or even horrible typos.

The problem with the above examples? They are real, taken from Amazon and other sources. It’s not just that they are bad, but that someone thought they were good and good enough to publish.

Rather than just laughing though, focus on the different elements of each cover. Ask yourself what is wrong with them. Which elements are off? Is the font wrong? What about the photos used? Are they high quality? Cheap? Do they violate copyright laws? (more on that in a few moments)

The Good

There are also some great book covers out there. The design is simple, the font is ideal, they stand out on a web page, the images fit the genre and are appropriate, and the words are spelled correctly and there are no mistakes.

Look at the above examples. What elements stand out? What fonts are used, and what emotions do they evoke from you? Do those emotions fit with the genre of the book?

In today’s market, book covers must have some things in common, but they must be unique enough to stand out. You can buy a stock cover cheaply, but you might see another book with the same cover, just with the author and title changed. In fact, you might see several.

  • Your title should be short and accurately describe your story.
  • The picture should be clear and simple, relating to one main element in your story.
  • Your name should be legible and large enough to read.

Keep in mind that you are not the cover artist: you are the author. The cover artist is also a creative, so let them be. Come into the design process with maybe one or two things you would really like to see incorporated into the cover, and let them do the rest of the work. After all, that is their job, not yours.

How do you find a good cover designer?

These answers are really like the ones regarding finding an editor. You simply need to take a few simple steps:

  • Find covers you like in your genre from self-published authors, and ask them who they used. Word of mouth is still the best advertising, and the best way to find the help you need.
  • Search professional job boards or places like LinkedIn. Avoid Fiverr and cheap sites like that. You get what you pay for when it comes to book covers, and too cheap to be true means you will lose on quality.
  • Find covers on books you like, and look in the acknowledgments. Authors often thank cover designers there.

The search may take you some time. Look at sample work. Have the cover designer create a mock up for you, so you can determine if you like it or not. Just because a cover designer worked for one person does not mean they will work for you.

Remember, the cover is the first impression people will get of your book. Make sure it is a good one.

How much should I pay for a cover?

Okay, so here is the deal. If you are not paying at least $150 to $200, you are probably getting an inferior cover. It takes at least a few hours for the most talented of book designers to work up a mock-up or two, and then a few more to finalize the cover when they are done. They deserve to be paid for their time the same way you are when you go to work.

If you are paying more than $1500, you are probably paying too much unless you are paying for a hand-painted, specially created cover for a fantasy novel or something along those lines. If you do want that kind of cover, just understand a few things first:

  • Most books are purchased digitally now. It is unlikely your reader will be able to see or will notice tiny details.
  • You must make money too. If your biggest expense is the cover, you may have a hard time doing so.
  • Most great covers are simple: like many other things in writing, keeping it simple is a much better idea, especially early in your writing career.

Essentially, you should pay between $150 and $1,000 roughly for a good book cover. Anything outside of that range is probably due to special circumstances, and only you can decide if the tradeoffs of either side of the scale are worth it.

The Publisher’s Choice

If you are traditionally published or published through a small press, they probably have their own cover designers. You will have to go with their choice, whether you like it or not.

However, some will give you the opportunity to have input on what your cover will look like. Take advantage of this, but understand that the publisher will have the final say.

Hire a Professional

I have used a few different cover designers through the years, and some have not been as good as others. Currently, I use Elle Rossi for many of my designs. Here are some ways to tell the professionals from the amateurs.

  • Amateurs are on Fiverr and other cheap sites, desperately looking for work.
  • Pros are busy most of the time.
  • Amateurs do not have a portfolio, a website, or references.
  • Pros have all the above, usually a portfolio hosted on a website, social media presence, and references they can give you. (Elle’s is EJR Digital Art)

A professional will offer you a quote, a mock-up or two for you to choose from and elaborate on, and will work with you until your idea is portrayed the way you want it.

Choosing a cover designer, like many other parts of the process, can be arduous and time-consuming, but is a step that is essential for you to get right. The first impression your readers have of your book will be one created by someone else. It is your responsibility to make sure they get the right one.

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Business 101 for Writers: Contracts

It scares some people that in many parts of the writing industry, artists and writers work without contracts: essentially with no safety net: you have paid someone to perform a service (or they have paid you) with no legal contract in place. However, this is not always as bad as it seems.

However, for major expenditures like editing and sometimes graphic design, you need to have a legal agreement in place. The good news is, you might sort of have one and not even know it. The truth of the matter is, even if the person is someone you know, you should have a contract.

Friendships can be ruined, relationships ended or be damaged, or business reputations be destroyed due to lack of a contract. Here are a few simple reasons you need one:

  • Expectations: It should be very clear to each party what is expected of them: what service exactly, will they be performing and what tasks are included and not included in that service? What do you, as the author, have to provide them so they can perform those services?
  • Timelines: How much time should the project take? Will it be done in stages, or is there a single deadline? What are valid reasons for deadlines not being met, and what are the consequences if they are not?
  • Payment: How much will this cost, or is this an ongoing cost? How are payments to be made, and when? What forms of payment are acceptable?
  • Ending the Contract: If things are not going well, how can either party get out of the contract? Is there a financial penalty?

These all amount to one thing: protection for both parties. The person providing the service knows what they will get paid, and when. The person receiving the service knows what they will get in return for their money and when.

Instead of just talking about this in an ethereal way, let’s take a look at a sample contract, and go through the elements it should include.

TWO IMPORTANT NOTES:

Yes, I shouted at you for a second. The first note is that I am not an attorney. I did have one help me draw up this contract originally, and it works well in my state and for the services, I contract out and perform. However, if your needs are different you should consult an attorney. Paying for an hour of their time can potentially save you thousands later.

Second, this is a contract for services you are receiving or providing. It is NOT a publishing contract. We will cover those later in the series, but for the moment understand those are completely different, nd require a whole different level of scrutiny.

For our example, we will use an editing contract for a book. This is the contract between the editor and the author. Let’s get started:

Title: Freelance Editorial Agreement

The Title of the contract immediately tells us what the contract is for and about. Underneath the title is a simple sentence that expounds on that definition:

“This agreement is between EDITOR NAME (hereafter referred to as Editor) and AUTHOR NAME (hereafter referred to as Author) and concerns the following manuscript:”

This of course can be modified to cover design, formatting, or even proofreading by simply changing the title and the job description in the first sentence. Manuscript can be changed to cover, or whatever the person is working on.

In the case of a manuscript this is followed by three simple things:

  • Author: The name of the author of the work, even if this contract is for a cover.
  • Title or Working Title of the Work: This helps you when referencing the project in your communications.
  • Length and description: How long is the book, what is the genre, and what are any other ways it needs to be defined. In the case of a cover contract, this is simply the type of covers needed: Print, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Be careful. Some cover designers charge more for each iteration. Know what you are a asking for before you start, and make sure it is included in their fees.

Tasks

In this case, the agreement speaks of editorial tasks. It specifically speaks to different types of editing:

  • Substantive and Structural Editing
  • Stylistic Editing
  • Copy Editing

These terms are defined on later in the contract, and this section explains that. This section may also include what the editor will not do, usually

  • Scene rewrites
  • Character profiles
  • Additional writing

Sometimes this will include things specific to your case, or agreements you and your editor may have made ahead of time. In the case of things other than editing, this may include what the cover designer, formatter, or proofreader will and will not do.

For instance, a cover designer may be able to make banners and other items to go with your book cover, but that may or may not be part of your agreement. Make sure the terms are clear, and you know how much additional work will cost.

Budget will be an important part of your project, especially when it comes to marketing, and marketing materials like graphics should be a part of that. We will discuss covers and marketing shortly, but at this point just know it is important to include your future needs in contracts you develop at the beginning of any process.

Delivery

This is an important section. How will you pass things back and forth? Will it be through Google Drive, One Drive, or some other file sharing service? Will you be working in a project management software like Asana, or will you be emailing things back and forth?

In most cases, you will be working virtually with someone who is not necessarily in your area, so hand delivery back and forth will not be possible, nor is it practical in most cases. This involves additional time, and usually causes the person providing the service to raise prices to compensate.

Payment

There are several options for online payments and invoicing. I use Square, PayPal, Bill.com, and even Square Cash. I almost never take checks as payment except from major publications who still pay that way.

You and your editor, or other service provider should agree on one you both are familiar with and comfortable using. Make sure the amount of payment and timing of those payments is well defined, and that you include who pays any fees associated with that form of payment: usually these are not much, but you need to include them in your budget.

Termination

This is where you define how the contract can be terminated by either party, and why. Usually material change of circumstances or acts of God are acceptable. There should be a period of notice—usually between 10 and 30 days, and agreements of how much should be paid by each in the event of termination. Usually there is a financial penalty of some sort for the person who terminates the contract early.

For instance, if the author terminates the contract early, they must pay the editor for the work they have completed to that point plus a fee anywhere from $50-$100 dollars or more. Many editors are freelancers, and may have turned down other work or planned their budget and time around a project.

By the same token, if the editor cancels the contract, they usually pay a penalty as well. The author will have to reset and find another editor, and this may cause them to miss deadlines. Whether those are self-created or a part of a publishing agreement, it is still important, especially if they have marketed release dates and events they may have to move.

Indemnity

This is important. Editing is a process of offering suggestions and advice. You as an author can take them or not take them, depending on how you want your story to be presented. The editor should bring questionable material to the author’s attention, but they cannot read every work of fiction or non-fiction out there.

So if you plagiarize something, or you don’t change something the editor suggests and it results in a bad review, the editor is not liable for that, and you can’t hold them legally or financially responsible.

This is to protect both of you, and at the same time to let you know that, while you do not have to adopt every change and editor suggests, you should certainly evaluate why they might be saying it.

Changes

This section defines how the contract can be modified, from deadlines to payments, etc. This can usually only be done by a signed addendum by both parties. This is simply to make sure you are on the same page, and there is no confusion about side agreements or changes you have made.

Terms

Finally, there should a be section that defines terms that have been used in the contract. This includes what copy editing means, or what type of cover design will be provided. And what that means, or whatever other terms may be unclear.

If you have a question about an editor’s contract, this is the time to ask for clarification, and not just verbally. It is not unusual for contracts to go back and forth several times for revisions until each party is happy.

Signatures and information: typically, this is the place where each person signs and dates the agreement. In most states, you do not need to have this notarized for it to be legally binding, and hopefully you never have the issue anyway.

However, if you should, having a contract will make the process much easier. For the most part contracts are not used that way: they are simply used to create clarity to both parties.

What if you don’t have a contract?

In some states, a verbal agreement serves as a contract, and you can use it in court if need be if you can prove the conversation happened. Even better is an email with a simple “I agree to create this item for this price” or “I agree to pay for this service at this price” is sufficient should you go to court.

Terms can duties can also be clear from emails, so in the case of some smaller tasks a contract may be excessive. However, it never hurts to have one, and they really are not that hard to draw up and negotiate.

So, your book is done, you have hired an editor and have a contract in place. What next? What should you be doing in the production process while you are waiting for edits to come back? It’s time for cover design.

We’ll talk about that in detail next.

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Business 101 for Writers: Production: Hiring an Editor

Here is the point where you are at the end of your free resources. It’s time to bring in the professionals. You’re going to need to hire several, and we will cover over the next few posts how to do find and choose them, how to hire and pay them, and how to avoid common mistakes.

What makes me so much of an authority on this topic? I have been published by small presses and self-published and I know the work and expense that goes into both. On the other side of things, I work as a freelance editor and writer, and have worked and associated with literally hundreds of editors over the last decade or so.

There are many I would recommend wholeheartedly, and those I would not. I would also tell you, in the interest of fairness, that I am not the right editor for everyone. I am also very busy, as are many other freelance editors I have worked with. So even if you wanted to hire me right now, my time schedule might not fit your needs.

Your Path to Publication

At this point in your writing process, you may not have decided yet what your chosen path to publication will be, but it only matters a little bit at this stage. Your work should be well edited before you send it to an agent, a small press editor, or a publishing house, especially if you are a first-time author.

As you go further down your journey, your publisher may be more inclined to accept an earlier draft, especially if you are on deadline, and help you walk through the editing process.

However, if you plan to self-publish, or if you are a new author or even new to a publisher, you should present them with the best work you can. This means that you should find and hire an editor to polish your work.

This comes after critique groups, re-writes, and advice from your friends who are willing to read your work before it is published. These should all be people that offer you valuable feedback, not just “I love it! You are so talented!” This is not the stage where you need cheerleaders: you need honest yet kind critique.

A professional editor takes that to a new level. They have been trained on story and plot structure as well as grammar and spelling, and should be able to help you with word choice and many other aspects of your work.

The Editor Search

Once you have determined it is time for you to hire an editor, you have to find one. The search for an editor is much like a search for an employee if you are in a day job. There are some primary differences though, and you must understand those as well.

Word of Mouth is the Best

Word of mouth is the best advertising for the editor, and it is also the best way for you to find one. Find other authors in your genre who are self-published and who have hired editors before, and ask who they hired and what their experience was.

A good clue is if you have read their work. If you have seen glaring errors that got through the editing process, that may not be the entire fault of the editor, however, it does offer a clue to how thorough the process was, and what it might look like for you.

In self-publishing and even small press, the editor is early in the process, and a copy editor, the author, and even whoever is formatting the book can introduce typos (I have actually had an experience where this happened to me. That is another blog post, further down the line). This is a reason to follow the process I outline in this series: it prevents or at least minimizes the chances of this happening.

That being said, if their book is plotted well, characterization is good, and the overall story is well developed it speaks to both the talent of the author and the talent of their editor to either assist them in shaping the story or leave it alone if it was done well originally.

An editor can do damage just as well as they can do good, and it is important to know the difference. If the author really struggled to connect with the editor, but they did a good job on the book, it may be their personalities did not click. But this is important as well. Liking your editor will help you work together better.

Job Boards/LinkedIn

Having trouble finding an editor through word of mouth? You may want to look at job boards and LinkedIn. But these come with a caution: you should beware of any freelance editor who is not busy or is running ads to get clients. There are certain job boards and internet forums to avoid, and that is one of the reasons I suggest LinkedIn: it is a place for professionals, and you are more likely to find a solid editor there with a good reputation.

Job Boards: First, do not start with Fiverr or similar cheap job boards. If your first question for the editor is “how much will it cost?” you are asking the wrong questions. As a part of running your authorship like a business, you should have budgeted adequately for an editor and the other professionals you need to hire.

Later in the post, we will cover vetting editors, but cost should be among some of the first questions you ask, but it should not be your biggest concern.

Look for ratings and recommendations on job boards. These are a form of word of mouth: you may not know the editor, but someone does and has used them before. These ratings and what reviews say will often give you a picture of the process.

If you are shopping job boards, pick a few editors and put them in a to-contact list. Probably the first one you find will not be the one you settle on, so give yourself options so you don’t have to go back and start searching from scratch.

LinkedIn: First, you should have a LinkedIn presence of some kind. As an author, it will help you a great deal, if in no other way than in marketing (more on that later in the series as well).

Second, LinkedIn is a great place to make professional connections. These are not people who are going to necessarily buy your book, but they are those who are going to help you make it into a finished product, distribute and market it. (Does this sound like the process we are talking about overall in the series? Yes, it does.)

When looking for an editor on LinkedIn, use the search box to search for “freelance editor.” If you just search the word “editor” you will get a lot of magazine and website editors as well, and you will have to wade through their profiles too.

Establish a connection with them by “connecting.” Linkedin offers you several options when you do this, including leaving a message. Use language like “new author (or established author, if that is you) looking for a freelance editor for my [insert genre here] novel project.”

This lets them know right away that you are a potential client. Connections without messages on LinkedIn often result in requests for free work, something editors get a lot of (trust me, I do) and that we have to ignore. So while they will often accept your connection request, if your initial outreach is not professional and clear, you may never get a response from them at all.

Make a list of editors you have connected with on LinkedIn, and stay on that website. You are going to start the vetting process next, and LinkedIn will be your first step.

The Vetting Process

Once you have made your list of editors, you need to vet them or narrow down the list to a few possible candidates. To do this, you are going to look at each of them in more detail using tools and data easily at your disposal.

Linkedin

Every professional editor will probably have a strong LInkedIn presence. There are some simple things you can look for to let you know if you are dealing with someone experienced or not.

  • Look at years of experience: Much of the time this will be either under jobs: even if the editor has worked as a freelancer, they will show this along with how long they have been doing it.
  • Look at education: Most editors have a degree of some sort, and probably some ongoing education as well. If they are professional, they want to list classes they have taken and certificates they have earned to illustrate their qualifications.
  • Look at recommendations: one think Linkedin allows you to do is recommend someone who has done work for you, and editors will usually have some recommendations there, although not always. Many authors do not have a strong LinkedIn presence, and so don’t even know how to do recommendations there. (did I mention, you as an author should have a strong LinkedIn presence? I think I did)
  • Look at Endorsements. While not all clients will write a recommendation, many will take the time to click on endorsements, and if a significant number of the editors LinkedIn contacts have endorsed them, at least you know they have a good reputation, especially if they are endorsed by their peers.

Not all of these LinkedIn guidelines will apply to every editor, but you can at least get a sense of their footprint by having a look at their profile.

Website

The editor will probably have their own website. It should offer some idea of what their editing process is, an overview of rates, and a clear way to contact them for more information or even hire them.

If their blog contains posts about editing, read them. Discover what they edit, what the process is, and what they think of the current state of publishing. Much of this will let you know if they are a fit for you or not. If you do not share their views in some areas, working together could be tough.

Remember, just because an editor was good for someone else, or has a good website, or has a solid LinkedIn does not mean they are right for everyone, including you.

Many editors will also include a calendar with their next openings for edits, although an equal number won’t share that until you are further into the vetting process. If it is available, take a look. If the editor is booked up beyond the time when you want to have your book complete, you need to evaluate if they are worth waiting for and adjusting your goals, or you just need to move on.

Other Social Media

Social media besides LinkedIn is a great place to gather information about a potential editor. What do they like and not like? What books do they read? What do they Tweet about? What do they do in their spare time?

Often if you can find other ways to connect to an editor outside of your writing, your relationship will just be better. Trust will be built faster and you can develop a real friendship.

It is great that an editor is professional, but there will be times in the process of editing and publication when you will want to scream, cry, or just rant. Often, your editor can empathize and be a good sounding board. It’s really about more than just editing your manuscript, but about shaping your story and in some ways who you are as a writer. Choose your editor carefully.

Meeting, and a Test Edit

Once you have selected an editor or group of editors, it is time to meet them, whether that is in person or online and have them do a test edit.

Free Test Edits

Some editors offer a free test edit of a chapter or two to see how things go and to evaluate your writing. This helps them see how much work they are going to have to do on the rest of your manuscript.

It helps you see if you like their style and they are a good fit for you. Obviously, free is the best price for a test edit, but be aware: This may not be as thorough as the editor will be once you are paying them.

Also, a test edit is only a small part of your book. There may be other parts that need more extensive work or less. So be prepared for variations: if what you handed the editor is pretty polished, initial edits may not look as harsh as they will be where your work is rougher.

Paid Evaluations

The best of both worlds really is for you to hire the editor, or more than one, to do a paid evaluation of your manuscript. They will look through the entire work, and can then let you know what the problems are, what kind of edits you really need, and an estimate of how much it will cost to fix it.

This is better for both of you: the editor knows you are willing to invest in them and their opinion, and you know the editor has a stake in making your work a priority and will give it their best.

Either way, once you have completed this process, you will be ready to hire an editor, hopefully. When you are, you will need a contract. We’ll talk about that next time, as this is an all important step in the production process.

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GUEST POST: 7 Things Successful Solopreneurs do Every Day

Our Guest Post today is by Bruce Wahl. Bruce Wahl is an IT expert with years of experience. He covers all aspects of IT like programming, photoshopping and other effects. He has spent some time in the field of security and is still helping other companies with the same. In his free time, he loves to enjoy nature and his two German Shepherds.

The digital revolution and surge in eCommerce have changed the face of the business world. For better or worse, standing out in an overcrowded market is a fine art. Solopreneurs abound in a wide array of niches and hitting it big is a daunting task. Those that come up roses have a long journey behind them.

The first step is self-discovery and the ones that follow are related to developing a deeper understanding of your niche, market, and competition. Your competitive edge needs to be a razor-sharp one, if you are to cut through the overwhelming noise out there. Here is what it takes to be a member of the elite club.

Uncovering true value

Competing for price, shipping, or product quality is fine, but it does not blow people away. The value proposition needs to capture the imagination of people and ignite passion in them. Many purchasing decisions are based on emotions and leading solopreneurs are masters of speaking to the heart and soul.

They have figured out a one-of-a-kind selling proposition and taken the market segment by storm. Many of them back charitable causes and demonstrate a high level of social responsibility and environmental awareness.

Getting connected

The website is the crown jewel of any online persona. It is an invaluable marketing tool, a great source of income, and the hub that accommodates website traffic. Networking in the online realm is one of the main strategies to improve your prospects.

It refers to reaching out to people on communities like LinkedIn, but also the practice of building links. Namely, links from authority sites boost the credibility of your own site and send positive SEO signals to search engines. Another way to build bridges to third-party channels is via guest blogging.

Online socializing

We all spend a lot of time on social media, but accomplished solopreneurs are not there to fool around. After all, social proof is a powerful credibility indicator. A solid social media profile encourages customers to place an order and come to trust your business.

It is often the tipping point consumers need to make a decision. Apart from collecting likes and shares, there are a couple of other things entrepreneurs do. They get celebrity endorsements, utilize customer reviews, and feature user-generated content.

Brand building

It has never been more important to nurture a swell personal brand. You have to make sure your voice is not something that others can duplicate. To create buzz and excitement around their brands, reputable solopreneurs have highlighted the unique aspects of their businesses.

They let their personas shine, and the light attracts people and garners their loyalty. In a sense, they have become exaggerated versions of themselves and managed to put their best foot forward.

Catching the devil in the details

Solopreneur cannot afford to lose sight of details. For instance, being a website content writer is a potentially lucrative career, but the legions of competition have the same idea as you. Delivering value-adding content to your audience is the chief mission and there is more than one way to go about it.

In fact, you have a slew of aspects to keep an eye on and they can all make a difference. Prolific writers know that engaging headlines, striking photos, and strong links tend the boost visibility and reach.

Constant learning

Knowledge is king and research the only way to get near the throne. Thus, successful solopreneurs do their homework every day. They know how important it is to stay on top of emerging trends and keep an eye on what developments and technologies wait around the corner.

In other words, you should strive to be an innovator and pioneer. Adapt constantly and never stop learning and improving. Get to know your niche backwards and forwards and establish yourself as a trusted expert.

Getting involved

All in all, you have to be involved in the industry. Google is just one of the tools in the arsenal. Stellar brands and thriving solopreneurs also read blogs, magazines, and other press on a regular basis. They attend conferences and trade shows.

There, it is possible to strike partnerships or meet competitors, clients, customers, and influencers. Finally, they go to great lengths in order to get featured on business websites and online review hubs. Growing a business is a complex endeavor, and it can be more than a full-time obligation.

A perfect day

There is no one unifying answer to the questions of what makes or breaks a solopreneur. Then again, it is clear that one needs to speak with a distinctive voice and tell an engaging story about the business. The next phase is letting it become a self-fulfilling prophecy of success. Therefore, be someone outstanding, a brand that cannot be emulated and replicated.

Emphasize your quirks, tendencies, and peculiarities.  You need more than a killer product or service.  The audience needs to identify and connect. Keep your fingers on the pulse of people’s needs and surprise them by exceeding their expectations. Walk the cutting edge of the industry and stay ahead of the curve.

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Tips for Saving Money as a Freelance Writer

Some professional freelance writers earn a whopping $10,000 a month, while others earn that much in an entire year. Regardless of earnings, saving money as a freelancer may seem impossible, especially when you don’t know how much your paycheck is going to be from month to month.

There are ways to build a nest egg and reap the benefits of a rewarding career as a writer, as long as you’re being strategic right now. Here are four ways to help you prioritize your money:

Emergency funds

Most experts recommend keeping at least three to six months worth of expenses (rent, bills, food, other necessities) in a separate savings account to cover any emergencies or losses of income. Twelve months would be even better.  

“As a freelancer, you might as well double this amount to account for the added risk of being self-employed,” writes Carrie Smith of Wise Bread.

She’s referring to all of the unexpected costs, not just the bare essentials. This could include costs like car and home repairs, vet visits, and doctor’s bills. It’s those unexpected emergencies that can do you in. Freelancers need to be even more astute in budgeting because of the various income levels per month.

If you want your budget to work, you’ll need to earn double the amount of what you spend monthly on all bills. If you can’t do that, it might be time to reevaluate your housing or car situation. Emergencies happen, life happens, so it’s best to be prepared. What if you had to pay for a $5,000 brand new heating system in your home, for example?

If you are unsure where to start in determining how much emergency savings you need, online tools such as savings goal calculators are easy to use and can help you determine how much and how long to save for you to achieve a financial goal.

Save for retirement

Fifty-three million Americans are now freelancers of some sort, which means without the backing of a full-time employer, the onus is on freelancers to handle their own retirement.

One thing freelancer Laura Shin recommends is opening your own IRA with an investment management company like Vanguard, which offers low-cost investments. Also, sign up for Freelancers Union because free membership there gives you access to a 401k and will allow you to contribute an additional $17,500 per year toward retirement on top of the $5,500 permitted for an IRA.

You’ll need to figure out at the beginning of the year how much you need to earn in order to set aside that $5,500 to put into a Roth IRA. Some of the wealthier freelancers also make contributions to a SEP IRA because you are allowed to contribute a larger percentage of your income instead of being limited my Roth’s maximum.

Understand Taxes

Many freelancers are so busy writing articles and securing clients that they aren’t investing time in understanding how to properly file taxes. You wouldn’t want to end up paying penalties, fees and interest on your tax return. There are plenty of tips out there to plan for income taxes on your freelance business earnings.

Also, it never hurts to ask a CPA for help or use a professional tool like QuickBooks Self-Employed. Set yourself up for success by filing an accurate tax return.

Shin, who is a freelance personal finance journalist, says she saves specifically for taxes and keeps good track of the expenses she can write off.  Throughout the tax year, she keeps a cash flow document that shows the balance at the beginning of the month, the money coming in, regular money going out and those one-time expenses.

Affordable places to live

Unless you’re doing really well as a freelancer, you’re probably not living in a highrise in NYC or San Francisco. In fact, you should only be paying about one-third of your monthly income on rent or on a mortgage.

If your rent or mortgage is outrageous, consider moving to a cheaper place. No “creative type” wants to be a “struggling artist.” Take it with a grain of salt, but an article from the Thrillist says the cheapest and coolest cities to live include Nashville, Albuquerque, Baltimore, and Charleston. These are places you can actually afford to live and even save money, according to the article.

At the end of the day, freelance writers need to be able to depend on reliable gigs and some income coming in at all times, otherwise, you may finding yourself moonlighting with a part-time job outside the home. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

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Business 101 for Writers: Production Part 4: Re-writing

Business for writers is a complicated topic, and so far we have covered several things, mostly related to writing, with brief notes on writer’s block (not allowed) and self-editing (does not work), but there is a step we must cover before we move on to the next step, which is editing.

There are a couple of things every author needs to know about editing:  first, there are several types and each editor calls them by different names. What it really comes down to is a process that has four main steps, although there can be other smaller steps under these.

They are, by the names I call them: developmental editing, content edits, line edits, and proofreading or copy editing. I’ll explain what all of them mean in my next post.

Here is the kicker: if you are paying an editor, the more steps they do for you or walk you through, the more expensive their services are. It makes sense, right? The more work you do, the more you get paid. Editors do not, in general, work for free, although some may trade services with you if you do something they need like book cover design or marketing. Barter is often the author and freelancer’s best friend, but either way, you are paying them with either money or time.

And the first step in the process is one that publishers, in general, do not do. If your work is still in the developmental stage, they aren’t going to accept it. Sometimes an agent will look at it if you are going a more traditional route for publishing. But they will not shop your manuscript around until it is out of this phase.

In fact, some authors going the traditional route will hire a freelance editor do all of the above steps before they even show their work to an agent or publishing house editor. The reason? The more polished your manuscript, the more likely it is to get published as long as your idea is also good.

The good news is that you don’t always have to hire someone to do the first step, the developmental edit. Usually, this step addresses issues in the manuscript you can deal with yourself or with a close group of friends or fellow writers who can help you perfect your craft.

There are also books, programs, classes, and software that can help you address these issues. So what are developmental editing, re-writing, and revision and what can you do to fix it yourself and save lots of money?

Plot and Structure

Here is the deal. A doctor does not become a doctor by visiting a doctor, and then thinking, “hey, I can do better than that” and opening a practice without going to school or studying. You do not write good novels by reading novels and saying “hey, I can do better than that” and writing one without some education and studying.

The truth is, you may or may not be able to write better than the hack who wrote that book you just read, but you need to understand that contrary to popular belief there are rules when it comes to writing. You can break the rules when there is a good reason to do so, just like Dr. House can prescribe something off the wall for symptoms because he recognizes the rare disease the patient has.

That is the exception though. Most of the time, writers and medical professionals follow a formula and a diagnostic process to determine what is wrong with their patient of the book they are working on, and they use a process to fix it that coincides with what is wrong.

For a novel, short story, or any work of fiction, you must have certain elements for a plot to work no matter what genre you are writing.

The Inciting Incident: This is the point where the story starts. Everyday life was happening, and then something new and unexpected happens. That can be good (romance) or bad (thriller, horror), but it alters what is normal for your main character or characters in some way. In my novel Stray Ally, the inciting incident occurs when a body falls from a freeway overpass and strikes the protagonist’s windshield. 

The Goal: Your main character must have something they need or want, and that is their goal. If you have a series of books, that is great, but the character in each book must have their own goal and must strive to reach it in that particular book. There can certainly be an overall plot for the series, and there should be, but each book must have a plot that stands on its own.

The Obstacle: Something is standing in the way of your character reaching their goal. This is usually the antagonist, and it can be a person, a place (some extremely difficult terrain), circumstances, (their arm is stuck in a crevasse when they are out rock climbing), or even fear or some other emotional obstacle within themselves. There can even be more than one obstacle, but one of them should be primary over the others.

The Dark Moment: Also known from time to time as the “pit of despair” this is the moment when your character is at their lowest: all hope is lost, and it seems like they will be defeated and will never reach their goal. This moment creates the tension of the book and is the moment the reader should be most invested in the character.

The Big Idea: This is the turning point. The main character finds the one thing, whether that is courage within themselves or some other tool that helps them achieve their goal, and uses it to turn things around.

The Resolution: We need to wrap up and answer the questions that have been asked earlier in the story. This is the point where the reader must feel that things are resolved, at least for now. All the loose ends and hanging questions must be tied up. In the case of a series, you can leave some overarching questions unanswered, as long as you make it clear the reader that more answers lie ahead, that your hero’s journey is not over.

These things must also all occur with the right pacing. You will lose your reader if you slow down at the wrong places or speed up when they really want to see all the detail of a scene. This is a really basic overview of plot structure, and you can discover more through books like Story Engineering or Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need which outline two different yet very similar methods to structure your story and pace it correctly.

If your story does not have all of these elements, it is not done yet. You can pay an editor to point these things out for you and help you correct them in the developmental editing phase, but with some education and time spent re-writing you can fix them yourself.

Characterization

This is the development of your characters, and this is something you can also learn and work on yourself to an extent.

This can be accomplished by asking yourself a few simple questions about your character:

What is their primary strength? What is the area where they are strongest and therefore different from those around them? This can range from a super power to simply being able to notice details no one else can. In the case of the television show Dexter, his super power was The Code his father taught him when it came to who to kill. In Breaking Bad, Walt was a great chemist.

What is their greatest weakness? Often the character’s greatest weakness is related to their greatest strength. Kryptonite is Superman’s weakness, pride was Walt’s in Breaking Bad, and The Code Dexter followed was often just as much a weakness as a strength.

Why should we care? If your character has a weakness and a strength, but we do not care about them at all, it does not matter. We won’t want to read about them. The key? We must know the story behind both their strength and their weakness, and we must empathize with it. Inspiring empathy is a delicate matter and is an entire book on its own.

Dialogue

I encourage writers to read their work out loud whenever possible, or have it read to them using a program like Natural Reader or another speech to text program.

The reason is you can hear wrong wording and phrasing in your work that you cannot “see.” This allows you to fix it before you even send it to an editor. However, this is especially important with dialogue. You can hear how your characters sound when they speak and determine if they speak in a way that sets them apart. If they do not, it is time to revise your dialogue.

Writing dialogue is not easy, and again is an entire book or discussion on its own. Some simple tips:

Write dialogue at a coffee shop, or at least study it there. You can have headphones in so you do not look like a creeper, but listen to those around you. What words do they use and not use? How do they structure their sentences?

Don’t copy the um’s, ah’s, and lengthy pauses. Those do not translate well to writing (or to any form of fiction) but copy the overall style of natural conversation.

Use dialect and cute phrases sparingly. First, it is hard to write and distracts the reader. And often in real conversation a dialect or accent is difficult to understand and results in a lot of “what?” and repeated sentences. This just reads horribly in a book, and you don’t want your reader re-reading the last sentence and saying “what?”. You want to pull them forward in the story.

Work on your dialogue. Insert emotion. Avoid the overuse of dialogue tags besides said, and cut every adverb if possible. The more quickly it moves, the better it resonates within the story, and the quicker a reader speeds through it while understanding it, the better.

Repeated Words and Phrases

You as a writer tend to repeat certain words and phrases. For a certain period of time, they become your favorites and you use them over and over. There are also common words that nearly every writer uses excessively or in the wrong places. When you are re-writing, search and destroy these words. Here is a partial list:

  • That
  • Rather
  • Very
  • Little (as in a little hungry. Either he was hungry or he wasn’t)
  • Pretty (as in pretty much, pretty small, pretty large)

Also, search for commonly misused words, and make sure you are using them properly, like their vs. there, to vs. too vs. two, etc.

The more you catch these things yourself the less your editor has to do, and the less you have to pay them.

The Second Draft

The second draft is you re-writing and clarifying your story. It is not a full on edit. It is simply fixing things like plot, pacing, characterization, and dialogue. You can help yourself by learning more through books, classes, writer’s conferences, and other means.

You can also join critique groups and have beta readers, although we will briefly discuss those in our next post. They don’t work for everyone, and there are some guidelines you should follow.

Here, really, is the point of this post: you should never show your first draft to an editor, agent, or most of the time to another human being. Most first drafts are crap, and they should be. As we discussed previously, you should write your first draft quickly.

You must re-write. At least a second draft, but sometimes more. You need to revise, listen to your work, pay attention to plot, characterization, dialogue, and those words you repeat all the time.

Finally, once you have gone through this phase of the production process, you need to show your work to someone else. Every good work is created with a team, and now is the time to start reaching out to the professionals who will help you along the way.

Are you at a place in your publishing journey where you need to hire an editor, or even just need a consultant on your story? Click here to hire me.

 

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GUEST POST: 5 Ways Zoho Projects Helped Me Grow My Wedding Business

All small businesses, including being an author or freelance writer, have many things in common. One is that you must learn to organize your projects. People use different kinds of software to do so. Fred Findley owns his own wedding business, and today shares how Zoho Projects has helped him grow.

While growing your business never ceases to present new challenges, I am sure most business owners can remember the early days. One hundred hour work weeks that begin before sunrise and end well past midnight. A few hours of sleep then start all over again.

In the beginning, everything is new and processes are constantly changing and developing. Eventually, these processes start becoming standard procedures, but everything is in the brain of the owner who is operating off memory. Even the best of us would forget the most minor of steps from time to time, or know that deep down each project you did wasn’t always being done 100% like the previous project.

Eventually, all small businesses have to organize their procedures; projects for clients, processing contracts, social media tasks, or other day-to-day operations. Until that happens, that small business owner suffers from inconsistencies, mistakes (small and large), and the inability to have assistance or employees help because all the processes are in the memory of the owner.

My Introduction to Lean Concepts and Operational Excellence

While I was getting my wedding business started ( www.FineLineWeddings.com ), I was also doing corporate photo and video work. I was incredibly fortunate that one of my earliest clients was an organization that provided operational excellence consulting to firms, manufacturers, and hospitals. If you’re unfamiliar with operational excellence, think of lean concepts, but on a much more iin-depthscale.

While I was photographing and recording their events and lectures, I begin to realize what the next steps were to growing my business: I needed to finally take a hard look at all my operations and outline the step by step processes and understand our process flow.

ZOHO and My Search for Online Project Management

Developing step by step processes for my procedures was only the first step. Once I did this, I knew I needed some kind of tool to track these processes. I began searching the web for an ‘online project management’ tool. Luckily, I came across Zoho, and specifically their ‘Projects’ application.

What is Zoho Projects?

As stated on their website at www.zoho.com/projects : “Projects is an online project management app that helps you plan your work and
keep track of your progress. It also lets the people in the project communicate easily, discuss ideas, and stay updated. This lets you deliver quality results on time.”

 

5 Ways Zoho Projects Helped Me Grow My Business

1. Eliminated working off memory
2. Perfected our process flow
3. Ensures same service for every customer
4. Enabled distribution of work
5. Centralized shared information among team
Above are the 5 ways in which Zoho Projects helped my wedding business. But let’s go ahead and break down each benefit.

Eliminated working off memory…

Someone who has never built a business from the ground up would never know the extreme amount of operational processes are jammed into the memory of a small business owner in the early days. I cannot tell you what a relief it was several months into using Zoho Projects. Day-to-day procedures and important tasks for client projects were finally something I could allow my brain to stop worrying about. Once all these tasks were broken down into standard procedures in our Zoho Projects it was such a ‘freeing’ experience. It was like my brain could actually be
used for other things again. I could also stop worrying about step by step tasks and start focusing on growing my business and adding new procedures, knowing that I wouldn’t have to store more and more procedures all in my memory banks… Zoho Projects had plenty of room for that.

Perfected our process flow…

Once you finally tackle your process flows and see all your tasks outlined step by step, you can finally improve these procedures. Perhaps one task doesn’t go far enough and during that stage you can do more. Or perhaps some tasks are redundant and can be eliminated. Perhaps you can take a group of tasks and use newer or better software to achieve better results during that stage. Once your process flow is figured out, you can easily work on constant improvement and THAT is a huge key to growing your business.

Ensures same service for every customer…

Zoho Projects allowed us to make sure that each of our customers received that exact same customer experience 100% of the time. As we proceeded with tasks such as processing a wedding contract, exporting images, importing video footage, etc. as long as we followed our outlined list of tasks for these processes step by step, we could make sure that each client received the same experience as every other client.

And when you consider my previously mentioned benefit of perfecting your process flow, this means that not only can you ensure results for your customer, you can continue to raise the bar higher and higher for those results.

Enabled distribution of work…

This is perhaps one of the most important steps in growing your business. Eventually, to grow your business past a certain point, you have to be able to replicate procedures with more people. With Zoho Projects, gone were the days of not being able to have employees do tasks because only I knew how to do things. Instead, all the tasks were outlined within Zoho Projects, and once trained, the employee only had to follow the same list of tasks for each project handed to him or her.

Centralized shared information among team…

When you are able to distribute work, you can suddenly have different team members working on different stages of a large project. But there are times when team members need data or files or information from another team member. To overcome this, we simply standardized steps for the team members working on early stages of a project to record the information that other team members would need later in the process. This kept the machine humming without constantly having slow downs.

 

Fred Findley is a wedding photographer in Pittsburgh, PA. His company, FineLine Weddings was established in 2007 and offers wedding services including photography, video, DJ, and photo booth rentals. FineLine also has a professional portrait studio located in Greensburg, PA.

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Business 101 for Writers: Production Part 3: Self-Editing

So many writers never reach even this point in production, or worse, they skip it. They get stuck on writing and never finish. But if you are among the lucky few who finish a story, you must move on to editing.

This post is titled self-editing, but before we even get to that, let me say it as loudly as I possibly can, to wake up those of you who might be sitting in the back of the classroom dozing.

You cannot skip the editing process, and publish something unedited. You cannot edit your own work. You need to hire an editor.

Let me say it again, just in case:

You cannot skip the editing process, and publish something unedited. You cannot edit your own work. You need to hire an editor.

Now stop. I can hear some of your arguments already, so I am just going to make a list for you here of the ones that are invalid:

  • I was an English Major.
  • My mom is an English teacher, she does it for me.
  • I have an MFA.
  • My spouse has an MFA.
  • I can edit my own stuff. I use method “x” with “x” software.
  • I took a course on self-editing at “x” writer’s conference.
  • My favorite indie author, “x” just uses beta readers, not an editor, and his/her stuff is pretty good.

Here’s the thing. Probably 99% of the population cannot edit or even proofread their own work effectively. The rest of us hate the 1% who can. Even if you are one of the rare authors who can proof or edit your own work, you should not. Just like you should probably not create your own covers even if you are a trained graphic designer, although we will cover that (pun intended) in another blog post.  

Here are some of the reasons why you should never be the sole creator and editor, or in other words, the sole producer of your work.

You become word blind.

What this means is that unless it has been a really long time since you have seen what you have written (and sometimes no length of time is enough to cure this) you see what you meant to write. You see those words whether those are really what is there or not.

Recently I read one of my own blog posts I had written two years ago and found a typo. A typo I did not see at the time, that grammar check did not catch, but that was glaring all that time later. No one noticed it either, or at least no one who did pointed it out to me. The thing is, in context, it almost looked right even after that much time had passed.

If you are writing quickly, as you should be, and editing shortly afterward, there is no way you will catch these things yourself. I promise you will miss at least one or two in a medium length work. In a novel, you might miss several.

You are in love with your own words.

Go ahead, tell me you aren’t. Then show me that clever phrase, that joke you think is hilarious, or that gorgeous description on page 53 of your self-published (or hopefully yet to be published) novel. Those are probably things you should cut out.

As Stephen King says, “Kill your darlings.” If you don’t believe me, take a journalism course and then write for a paper or magazine of any size. You will find that your editor and your readers do not love your precious words and phrases nearly as much as you do.

Here is the thing: as an author, you have built a fire with your story. The likelihood is that there is some damp wood in there, some moss, or some torn up cardboard. It makes for a lot of smoke. The job of an editor is to clear away the smoke so that everyone can see and enjoy the fire.

You cannot do this yourself effectively. Please, on this one point trust me. I can read a few chapters or maybe even pages in your book, and I can tell if you edited it yourself. There will be a whole lot of “you” in the way of the story.

Your project will feel narcissistic.

All of that you in the way will show through. Your book will feel like one of those body builders in the gym who spends as much time looking at himself in the mirror as he does pumping iron. It will probably feel like it is all about you. Because it is.

You need another set of eyes, another voice, one that is not close to you or at least can be objective about the way your work is presented. More on why you should not use relatives or those close to you in a moment.

A professional editor can see things you cannot: they see phrases you use too often, things you repeat often, and redundant descriptions you may miss. They can hear when your dialogue is stilted, and can offer advice about better word choices, sentence structure, and even point out when your plot has holes you may not notice, but that a reader will.

It is a good thing that you love your work. It is a good thing that you value your words. It is also good for you to be able to take critique and instruction from an editor at this phase in your journey. Hearing from an editor and changing things now is better than getting bad reviews on Amazon and damaging your reputation, which is your brand. (More on that later in our section on branding).

Note on Relatives: It is rare for a writer to have a relative that can honestly critique their work and make it better without also being word blind and leaving those phrases you love. It is also harder to argue with that person, as it can result in marital or family conflict.

If you are one of the rare people who has a relative who can edit your work objectively, thank your lucky stars and use them. However, I would encourage you to try something. Have your relative edit one of your short stories or novellas, something not too big. Then hire a professional editor to edit it, and compare the two.

If your relative does just as good or a better job than the editor, keep using them. If they do not, keep your eyes open.

Note on Revisions: A part of the writing (production) process we will talk about soon will be revisions. Revisions and rewrites are not a part of the editing process and are also not self-editing. You should revise and rewrite your work before an editor or anyone other than a writing critique partner or someone who reads your work as you go does.

Since we are on the subject, rewrites and revisions should be done quickly too, for the same reasons drafts are written quickly. You do not want your mind or heart to change during the process, or you will do a lot more rewriting than you need to.

Once you have started the editing process, do not do any more rewrites except those recommended by your editor to fix plot holes or other obvious issues. That is the point at which you have to let the story go: it is time to let someone else work on it at that point.

This is of course because we are talking about writing as a business. If your goal is not to sell lots of books, but rather to create a single literary masterpiece in your lifetime, you can revise and rewrite as much as you wish and take as long as you wish to produce drafts before letting anyone else see and edit them.

Exceptions to the Rules:

In the world of publishing and writing, there are exceptions to every rule. There are writers who can edit their own work. There are relatives who do a great job of editing their author brother/husband/son’s work.

There are also authors who can kill their darlings, and create work on their own that does not feel narcissistic. However, if you feel that you are one of these writers and have not tried professional editors, or had someone in the upper reaches of the field validate this truth for you, it probably is not true. If you send your work to a pro editor who hardly touches it, or says to you “You don’t need me, you just need a proofreader” or something along that line, go forth and do wonderful things.

Most of the time, this type of thinking is just self-delusion. If no one close to you is honest enough to tell you the truth about your writing, just try getting one professional, honest opinion. If I am wrong about you, in your case, please email me and let me know. I would love to meet someone who is so extraordinary.

In the next section, we will talk about money for a little bit. After all, this is the stage when you will invest more than just time. You will invest dollars, and a part of a business is working to get the best return on your investment. That does not mean always hiring whoever is the cheapest.

Have questions and can’t wait for the next section of this series? Want to hire me, or just need some coaching advice? Click here or email me at [email protected].

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