Keeping Time – Try It

 

Honestly, there are few more eye-opening undertakings in business than keeping your own time. You may not actually need to keep time to get paid for your work, but even if you don’t have to, I think everyone should…at least for a week or so.

It’s very revealing.

There tends to be a discrepancy between the amount of time we think we work and the actual time we are actively engaged in working. This is because we’re not machines. It’s also because we have a gazillion interruptions throughout the day, whether we work from home or in an office.

If you’ve never kept time, I encourage you to do so. It will help you get a handle on your productivity and your potential. For one week, give it a try.

Basically, keeping time means you clock in and clock out – you write down the time you start working on a project and the time you end. You repeat this as often as you need to for the duration of your work time.

Every time you stop working on the project for whatever reason – the doorbell rings, you get a text, your dog is eating the sofa – you jot down the time you stop. Then when you sit back down again and begin work on the project once more, you write down the start time. Then you add up all those minutes to get your total.

Say you sit down at 10:00AM to work on Project A.  At 10:13AM, the phone rings. You jot down “10:13″ and then get the phone. Say the call lasts until 10:30. When you are settled back down to work on Project A, write down 10:30.  Then you need to use the bathroom at 10:40 so you write down “10:40″ and go use it. When you get back, you write down the time you start again on Project A.

It can be a bit embarrassing to note that you only actually worked, say, 37 minutes out of the hour, or that your “workday” totaled only 3 hours and 17 minutes.

Rather than let this get to you, use the data to improve your work.

For instance, this may help you get a handle on how much work you can take on. If a project is going to take you 4 hours, for instance, then you can be a step ahead by recognizing that you’ll need 5 actual work hours to get that done.

Keeping your time once in a while can only be of benefit. It will keep you firmly grounded in reality!

 

 

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Why do I Freelance?

Recently, I have been reading stories of people quitting their high-paying jobs and becoming freelancers. People go into various businesses on their own, from wedding planning to hand-sewn tote bags. Many of them talk about the fear of giving up their “day jobs,” and claim to dabble in their freelance passion for months or years before actually quitting said day job and going freelance full-time. But what I am not reading are stories about freelancers who got there some other way…

I used to work for a major law firm as a paralegal. I had my own office, made decent income, and had good benefits. I left the job not because I wanted to freelance write; I left the job because it was the end of my pregnancy and my then-husband and I agreed that I could stay home for at least 6 months. Then life threw me a serious curve ball and I found myself divorced and the single parent of a small, nursing baby – hardly the ideal situation for going back to that “day job.” So I turned to something I have always been good at: writing. Thanks to many wonderful mentors and connections, I learned that the world of the writer is not the elusive, vague career goal it once was. Now there is the internet, and the need for content, and writers are much in demand.

The "QWERTY" layout of typewriter ke...

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I considered myself a writer from a young age – I always had my notebook in tow, and later, my electric typewriter (forerunner of the laptop!). Even though I majored in Studio Art in college, writing remained a constant passion. But I did not understand how to make it work as a career. It was too vague and, frankly, scary. There was no internet yet.

All this to say, there is not any one reason why people freelance. Nearly everyone who does, though, agrees that they’d never go back to that day job.

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Writing SEO

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I suppose much of my talk about grammar and syntax and high quality content has not addressed what some believe to be the most important aspect of writing web content: SEO.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is basically the use of keywords that, when woven into an article’s content, will (hopefully) help rank that particular website higher in search engine results. In other words, you the writer discern what keywords and/or phrases people are searching for and use those words in your writing. Then the website where your SEO article is posted pops up in response to people’s keyword searches.

Sometimes, clients have a list of keywords they want you to use. Other times, you will need to find those keywords yourself. A helpful tool in this regard in Google Adwords; but Wordtracker has a pretty good reputation for keywords, too. I also read an article recently by a writer who discerns keywords by brainstorming and intuition, and she claims to be quite successful.

Keywords can be single words, two-word phrases, or “long tail keywords.” The latter are often used when one writes about very specific products or topics, playing on that internet irony of drawing more customers by targeting a narrow audience.

However, it seems that SEO – and how much time a writer spends on it – may not be as important as some think. There are some writers and bloggers who question its importance, noting that there are successful website owners who do not use SEO in their content.

Frankly, I am happy to write with SEO or without; the client decides. I find it challenging and interesting to include keywords in my articles, but if a client does not require it, I can still produce a well-written piece. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

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“High Quality Content”

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Google’s algorithm change has altered the face of web content writing, and personally, I am thrilled. This CNNMoney.com article notes that the main beneficiaries of Google’s change have been those writers who produce “high quality content.”  As someone who touts her ability to write web content with substance, I am pleased that Google’s change has given a more audible voice to writers of in-depth pieces.

According to the article, “content farms” were among the hardest hit by the algorithm change. My best friend and I have an inside joke (about to become public) about this kind of “content farm” writing one sees around the web these days. When we were kids, which was in the 80s, there were TV infomercials for all kinds of largely useless and bulky products that, for all their bulk, apparently made significant impressions on our young minds because we still remember them. There was one commercial for some kind of steamer that claimed it used “real molecules of steam!” to accomplish its steaming action. Of course, there is no other sort of steam to be had, but the advertisers decided to state the obvious as though it were important information exclusive to their product. This same sort of simplistic approach is often seen in web content writing, and my friend and I call it the “real molecules of steam” style.

I take pride in producing “high quality content” and in-depth articles. For example, high quality content would explore what the steam does and how it accomplishes its purpose (softening bread, getting the wrinkles out of clothes, etc.). Google’s algorithm may open new doors for this kind of writing, and I hope to walk through a few open doors! …if the real molecules of steam don’t drift through first…

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Who Hires a Guest Blogger?

Undoubtedly, some bloggers are scratching their collective heads at the concept of hiring a guest blogger. After all, many people blog because they love to write, and find enjoyment in expressing themselves via the written word. But hiring a guest blogger does not mean you forfeit your writing, or that you somehow are not in control of your blog anymore (heaven forbid we lose control!).

Think of it like a radio or television show. If you watch Oprah because

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she has a guest on her show you want to hear, you’re still watching Oprah’s show; the guest does not detract from that. In fact, special guests can actually increase a radio or television show’s appeal and rating. The same is true for guest blogging. So one reason why people hire a guest blogger is to increase interest and traffic to their site.

Another type of blogger who may hire a guest to post is the sort who is pressed for time and ideas. After all, no one knows everything, and even if you do, you don’t necessarily have time to write it all! Bloggers who find themselves too  busy to give their blogs attention, or who need some relevant content on a subject they are uncertain about, are bloggers who hire guests.

These are just some of the types of bloggers who hire others to write posts for them. Are you one? Maybe I can help you out!

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The Value of a Guest Blogger

Suzanne Valadon Blogging, after Lautrec

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I do love guest blogging, but it’s not just my love of it that makes it worth considering for your own business. After all, your business’s online presence depends on good content; but keeping things updated and fresh takes time and energy. For some business owners, it takes too much time. For others, it is simply a matter of preference – they don’t like to write, or are having a hard time coming up with topics to write about, and/or a host of other reasons why their blogs languish.

Blogs are one of those things that really can take up space and time while accomplishing little (ask me how I know). But I am changing that for myself, and would be glad to help you change that, too. Hiring a guest blogger can provide a fresh perspective and give your blog the boost it needs. Blogs are all about providing good information and personal interaction – both vital aspects of a thriving business.

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