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13 Best (and Worst) Things About Becoming A Freelance Writer.

13 Best (and Worst) Things About Becoming A Freelance Writer.
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According to a new survey, 54 million Americans – or 34% of the workforce – are engaged in freelance work. Almost 8% of those are freelance writers – and that’s around 4,320,000 people.

It’s clearly an increasingly popular market, and with good reason, but it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. If you’re thinking of becoming a freelance writer, make sure you go into it with your eyes wide open.

Let’s start with the good.

1. You’re Your Own Boss.

If you want to take a holiday, take a holiday. If you want to sleep in until 11, sleep in until 11.  If you want to hit the gym at 3 to avoid the post-office rush? Yup, that too.

One of the best things about being a freelance writer is that you answer to no one except yourself; you own your decisions.

Obviously you still have responsibilities and those responsibilities dictate your priorities but the point is, they’re your priorities (and your consequences). Not the company’s. Not your manager’s. Your good is the greater good.

2. You Can Work Wherever You Want.

All you need to be a freelance writer is yourself, your laptop and an Internet connection.

There’s no specialist equipment and, although some freelance writers do spend time with clients in-person, it’s not a job requirement.

With tools like Skype empowering worldwide inter-connectivity, there are few situations where a face-to-face meeting is more cost-time efficient than an e-meeting anyway, so it’s not a big loss if you never meet clients offline.

All of which means this: you can work from wherever you want, whenever you want. Maybe that means that little café you love with the hand-roasted beans, or maybe it means joining the hubud in Bali.

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Forget ‘the world is your oyster’ – the world is your office.

3. It’s Varied.

Being a freelance writer means having a portfolio of clients, rather than a single employer.

Because your skill is writing, rather than something strictly industry-specific, those clients can be much more varied that if you were, say, a freelance plumber.

Even if you specialize in writing for a specific area, the variety of work is endless. Being a great writer is similar to being a great actor: you have to be able to master different voices, different styles, different personalities

Work never seems mundane, because you’re constantly applying your skills in a different way.

4. It’s Secure.

One of the traditional arguments against freelancing is that you sacrifice job security. This is quite a fallacy.

When you first strike out as a freelance writer, things probably are less secure than having a full-time job, but once you’ve built up a client portfolio you’ve got a properly diversified income stream.

Your financial security is no longer dependent on one client but on many; this spreads and therefore minimizes your risk. In an insecure economy, it’s more important than ever not to put all your eggs in one basket.

 5. You Can Be Agile.

Markets change constantly. New opportunities spring up; new niches; new areas where you could make a mark. Being a freelance writer gives you the fluidity and agility to take advantage of new opportunities with minimal risk.

The e-learning market is a great example. Growing rapidly, it’s an area that’s attractive to a lot of freelance writers right now – but it’s still a relatively new industry and the bubble could yet burst. Freelance writers can easily dip a toe in the water with new markets like this – a new project here; a new client there – without needing to dive in and hope they swim.

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6. It’s A Constant Learning Curve.

As a freelance writer, your clients are paying you to stay ahead of the curve on their behalf. At least a third of your time isn’t spent writing at all, but reading, listening, watching and absorbing as much as possible, in order that you can write with authority.

For people who love to keep learning, being a freelance writer absolutely ticks that box.

7. It’s Fulfilling.

For most freelance writers, this is the most overwhelming positive: you get to do what you love.

It goes almost without saying that you have to love writing (and take a word of advice – if you don’t, don’t try and be a freelance writer. It’s bloody difficult if you’re not passionate about it), but it goes deeper than that.

Precisely because it’s such a flexible career, and because you’re your own boss, you can choose the sort of life you want to build for yourself. You can work for top-dollar with huge advertising companies, or throw yourself into that creative not-for-profit that you admire, or neither, or both.

It’s not about building an attractive resume, or showing career progression, or avoiding career gaps – it’s about choosing what you work on and when in the combination you find most fulfilling.

Being a freelance writer is not all sunshine and flowers, though. This job is very far from easy and, if you want to do it, you should know what you’re getting into. Here are the massive downsides to being a freelance writer:

8. You Have To Fight Your Own Corner.

Harsh truth time: there are a lot of aspiring freelance writers out there, and a lot of them aren’t much good at all.

Freelance writing sometimes seems to be a default career choice for those who want to freelance, but lack the writing-specific skills, knowledge or willingness that should back that up.

Finding work is competitive, and finding high-paying work more so. There’s no shortage of writers looking to undercut you, selling on price because that’s all they have to sell on.

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Being a freelancer writer means being able to sell yourself. It means having a really solid value proposition, and being able to pitch confidently to clients. It means knowing your worth, and being willing to negotiate constantly – because no one’s going to hand you anything on a plate.

9. You Can’t Be Rudderless.

There’s no simple path to success; no ten steps you can follow to automatically ‘make it’ as a freelance writer. The scale and diversity of the market are amazing, but it also means that you have a really strong sense of purpose or you’ll struggle to navigate in any meaningful way.

Clear goals and a clear mission to realize them are essential: without them, you could end up on a plateau, working endless hours and earning just enough to get by.

10. There’s No Life Raft.

Most of us have days where we just need to take things easy.

Maybe you’re ill, maybe you’re run down, maybe your head just isn’t in the game – whatever. Even if you’ve never pulled a sickie, I’m sure there have been days where you’ve been in the office more in body than in spirit, and that’s OK – if you’re employed.

One of the best things about being a freelance writer is the amount of effort you put in directly correlates to how much you earn – but it can feel like one of the worst things sometimes too. If you don’t draft, you don’t get paid – full stop.

That makes those off-days a lot harder to swallow.

11. It’s Hard To Find Balance.

The correlative to the above is that it’s worryingly easy to work yourself into the ground and burn out.

That freelancers have to be self-motivated has been said so many times as to be stale, but that doesn’t just refer to getting up and putting in the hours. It’s just as, if not more, difficult to know when to stop working and take time for yourself.

At the same time though you’ll never not have responsibilities again, if you want to be successful. You can aspire to work/life integration, for sure, but you can never truly switch off, never really leave work behind, because there’s no one else to take the reins.

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Finding ways to be compassionate and present in all the elements of your life becomes more of a challenge for freelancers.

12. There Are A Lot Of Odds And Ends.

If you become a freelance writer, you’re lucky if 75% of your time is billable. Writing might be what pays the bills, but you’re running a business now.

That means tax, business development, sales, marketing and so on.

The time you spend responding to emails will suddenly crystallize once you realize you’re earning zero dollars an hour while you do it.

13. It Can Be Lonely.

I don’t just mean lonely in the sense of literally being alone.

I mean it in the deeper sense, that you lack a shared purpose. Even if you hang out in co-working spaces or work on-site with clients, you’re running a business of one.

If you freelance, you can find yourself yearning after the shared sense of achievement, the camaraderie, you get when working in a team.

The thing about being a writer is this: it’s a vocation more than anything else.

If you’re thinking of becoming a freelance writer and you’re focusing on the reasons you want to freelance rather than the reasons you want to write, it’s probably not the career for you.

A good test is this. If you won $100 million on the lottery tomorrow, what would you do?

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After the travelling and the cocktails and the new car; once the celebrations died down? If the answer isn’t write then don’t become a writer. Find a way to carve out a career doing whatever your answer was instead.

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

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