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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Finance 101 for Freelancers: 9 Tips for Today

First off, I am no financial guru. Yet I've made it through almost nine years of freelancing and still have my not-yet-paid-off home of seventeen years to prove it. Two things helped: (a) I got two day jobs when needed (one working at a pizza place for nine months; another working at a box store for two long years). You'll note both of these are low-level entry positions which allowed me the freedom of working various hours and days (around my freelance projects), plus I gave my two weeks' notice and knew I could be rehired later, if my finances again needed the extra infusion. (b) The other thing is that you may need a roommate, not the freeloading kind but one who can chip in more when you're having a really slow month or three. This can even work with another freelancing roommate, but you've got to be prepared for those really slim times when both of you have no money coming in.

Second, I'm just one freelancer, sharing her thoughts. As I tell my copyediting clientsafter setting forth the applicable grammar/spelling rule(s) so they can make an informed decisiontake what resonates from my edits and suggestions and toss the rest. The same maxim applies here. However, even if you don't (yet) agree with my suggestions offered below, you may hit upon a better rendition for you (even for others; please share!).

Third, despite all the great financial info out there (pay yourself first, set up autosavings, etc.), none of that helps the proverbial starving artist or struggling freelancer. I do not have autodrafts for my bills set up as there are times when I'll have $0.88 in my account for weeks on end. So I have to manually pay my bills. Which, as mentioned before, is working for me. If you are not the most reliable one to take on this manual approach to bill-paying, then hopefully your roommate/partner/spouse is better at it. Let them take the reins on this one.

Fourth, for a freelancer, you have to change your monetary focus on those long-term goals and reset to ponder short-term goals. And it's a sliding scale. If you have money to cover your monthly bare-bones expenses (and you do know what that exact figure is, right?), great. And, just to be clear here, "bare-bones expenses" does not include house taxes (if you pay them separately, if you do not have them added into your monthly mortgage payment) and does not include IRS taxes unless this particular month includes an estimated quarterly tax payment deadline. So just the mortgage/rent payment, utilities, food, car gas (if needed). Now, if you don't have money to cover just this month's bills, don't let that worry you. For now. Do you have enough for today? And by that I mean, food, water, shelter, clothing, even money to pay a bill due tomorrow or the next day. Then consider yourself lucky and blessed.

Fifth, DON'T WORRY. I still do, but maybe this will remind me not to. In the freelance world, tomorrow you could have five prepaid projects coming in within the span of five minutes. Or you could get five prepaid jobs, one a day over the span of the next five consecutive days. The point here is, you don't know what tomorrow will bring. So be happy with what you've got today. Tomorrow may have more pleasant surprises for you. With the freelancing life, you've got to have hope and faith. A lot of each.

Sixth, I know when I have a really great month (exceeding my entire monthly expenses' needs, meaning one-twelfth of the house taxes and one-thirdish of the next estimated tax payment to the IRS), I have the urge to pay a principal-only mortgage payment or to make a double payment on my HVAC loan with its remaining balance edging closer and closer to $1,000. DON'T. My son pointed this out to me, and it is so true. When you make that extra principal-only mortgage payment, it does not negate next month's mortgage payment. And, granted, the principle-only payment is nowhere near the P&I payment due monthly. But it's a start in the right direction if you have that sitting in your account, correct? So resist that urge to pay more than the required payment on ANY bill. Instead set aside that $100 or whatever into a savings account or your hidey-hole at home or for your extremely trustworthy roommate to sequester until those last three months of the year where you have no business to speak of. Which is my particular annual event.

Seventh, in my scenario, (a) I have no credit cards (only debit cards) as I happen to think credit cards are of the devil. They should be outlawed in my opinion. And pushing them on college-age kids is akin to pushing drugs on kindergarteners. Just my opinion here. (b) Plus my twenty-four-year-old car (that I love) is paid off. So think twice about jumping headfirst into your own business, foregoing that steady-paycheck day job if you have credit card debt and a huge car payment and live by yourself, even if your mortgage is paid off. Believe me, your freelancing days will give you plenty of freedom but it may take years before you ever make the money you did in the corporate world. Just saying ...

SIDE NOTE HERE: Some of us are meant to be our own bosses (me, for instance). Others of us are meant to be in the corporate world, working for a boss. As long as you know your rightful place, you should be happy working there. However, be forewarned. If you are more security focused, then you need to stay in that 9-to-5 job with the paychecks coming on the first and the fifteenth of each month, like clockwork, and in the exact same amount each time. Now, if you are more like me, and freedom means more to you than a set amount being deposited into your account twice monthly, then maybe you should try freelancing on the side, as you pay down your debts and pay off your car note (keeping that day job for now), until you can minimize your expenses and truly start off on the right foot to being your own boss. It's a heady feeling.

Eighth, when you're really hurting for money, and you can't seem to get a day job (or your car is dead in the garage and now you must restrict your day-job options to those businesses nearby that you can walk to), do what Marianne Williamson advocates: empty a drawer. I swear it worked for me earlier at the start of this year. Something about nature's law of a vacuum. The universe seeks to fill it.

Ninth, this is one tip from the "normal" financial world that works in the freelancer's world as well. Diversify. Have multiple streams of income. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. That way, hopefully, when one stream dries up (temporarily or permanently), you'll have others to support you in the meantime as you reassess your options.

Okay, that's it for my financial tips for you today. My mind kept nagging me to share this, so, now that I've done so, maybe my brain will turn to something else, like creative ideas for my first-ever fiction series. That would be wonderful.

Are you an experienced freelancer with more operating advice for me, for us? Would love to hear it.

Take care, all.


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)




Monday, April 10, 2017

Don't Toss Those Stale or Hard Cookies

This is one of those tips that just seems so obvious, yet I only figured it out one week ago.

If you're like me and prefer your cookies soft and preferably warm from the oven, then a hard cookie is not so tempting. But don't throw those away. (Unless they were homemade, and salt was used instead of sugar. Feel free to trash those.) Save each kind in its own baggie, and place them all in a one-gallon freezer bag. Use them to make cookie crumble toppings on pies, cakes, fruit crisps. You can also crush them into a flavorful graham-cracker-like crust.

And, if you eat Oreos like I do (taking off one cookie from each sandwich, eating the rest), then you'll have a lot of chocolate wafer cookies to make a great chocolate cookie crust.

Everyone does that, right?

Ha!

Gotta get back to work but I did want to share this with y'all before I forgot. Have a good Monday!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


Monday, January 9, 2017

Six Inspirational Lines to Guide You in 2017

I've been going through one of my several banker's boxes full of paper data.  Yes, I keep paper backups despite the Internet. It must be an author thing. Anyway today's box is labeled Goals, and I've enjoyed reading old resolutions from years past and was also surprised at how much I've accomplished over the years.

But this post is to share some great insights I found.

1. The real definition of "failure" is not being true to yourself and your dreams.

2. The real definition of "wealth" is finding where you belong.

3. The real definition of "fear" is the energy to do your best in a new situation.

4. Stop saying you don't have enough time. You simply need to prioritize your time to meet your biggest goal(s).

5. Stop saying you don't have enough money. You simply need to get creative and work smarter. Ask yourself: What do I have here with me or at home or in the car that could help me with this?

6. Anytime you hit the end of the road, you're lacking an idea, not money, not time, not mentorship. Think outside the box.

Amen!

I'm sorry that my handwritten notations did not give the source for these gems. My apologies to the creative minds who gave us this wisdom, but we can learn and apply them regardless.

Go forth and embrace failure and find your wealth.


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Monday, December 5, 2016

When to Use "LA" and When to Use "L.A."

LA = the two-letter postal code for the state of Louisiana (one word), per 16CMS 10.28.

L.A. = the abbreviated way to denote the city of Los Angeles (two words), just like we do with people's formal names. J. K. Rowland can be referred to as J.K., per 16CMS 7.62 and 8.4.

I find this error often in the manuscripts I copyedit.

Only twenty more days until Christmas!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)


Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Tip Using Microsoft Word Styles and Autogenerated Table of Contents to Help with Your Plot Review

I'm currently working on Book One of my first fiction series. And belatedly (I'm at 68,542 WC of an estimated 80K WC novel), I've added in subhead notations (for me only) at each chapter and time break (in other words, for each scene). A new scene or three had interrupted my previous order.

And, if you're like me, rereading my draft (word for word, starting at p. 1 onward) has me copyediting (dealing with grammar and spelling issues), not focusing on plot continuity.

So I'm using Header 1 of Word's Styles for my chapter headings (CHs) and Header 2 for my subheadings (Subs). Plus these Styles help in creating a Word-generated Table of Contents. Better to read four or five pages of my TOC (as a story overview) instead of the 275 pages currently making up my MS (as a detailed mechanics view).

I interrupted myself to do a sample cover, but I easily talked myself into starting my scan of those 275 double-spaced pages to come up with scene descriptions, knowing this will help me greatly and save me tons of time. Once scene labeling is done, I can read my TOC, locating what sections to move to where, plus seeing where my plot goes awry or where I've got too many things going on in one day or have forgotten another day or have too much emphasis on one major POV than the other one.

Hope this helps someone out there too. Have a good week, everyone.

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to Get Rid of Those Pesky Bolded Section Breaks in Word 2010

I love Microsoft Word, except for the hidden commands feature, like where those pesky bolded moving section breaks are hidden within Word 2010 docs. Those unintended and unwanted breaks show up as a bad surprise in my own writing, plus I see them occasionally in my copyediting projects. Removing them is a time-consuming "try this and that" approach. Maybe it is something of a learning curve too as fighting these off is a rare occurrence.

Anyway, while you can find various ways to kill these on the Internet, I think I've got the easiest and surest fix: modify your Normal Style within Word to include the Keep with Next feature for paragraphs (and unclick the Widow/Orphan feature). You have to select your whole document first (Ctrl+A, held down together, then Enter). This technique does add in the requisite little black box before all your paragraphs (noting a Style was applied there but which symbol does not show up in print), yet it deletes the bolded margin-to-margin breaks in your document, which is the ultimate goal. Yippee!

Hope this helps y'all and saves you bunches of time and aggravation.

Enjoy Turkey Day!

"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Penniless Publishing: How to Indie Publish for Free (or Almost Free)

I was leaving one of my author group meetings earlier this month when one of the guys mentioned that all my books were e-books. I told him how I was the queen of the budgeted Indie-pubbed authors. He thought I should share my tips with our group. He got me thinking. Maybe I should share my tips with y'all here. Even though I'm on a very restricted budget, I do the best I can with what I've got at the time. You can too.

Anyway these all seem fairly obvious to me, but who knows? Maybe they're not. Let's begin.

  1. E-Book Versions Only. I publish e-books now, with every intention later, once I'm a "rich and famous" author (which means, to me, able to pay all my monthly bills with my monthly royalty check), that I'll offer CreateSpace paperbacks (and have one for my home library too) and even Audible versions of my books as well.
  2. Covers. Out of my eighteen current online offerings, I've created twelve of my own covers from scratch, using various routes, with intentions later to have professional artwork done on some of them. My Good Ole Boys cover was done by a professional artist, whose great talents I enlisted via a good ole boy agreement between me and him, as he was my son's friend. I paid a pittance for his art. I hope to repay him somehow in the future for the true worth of his skills. The three-book and four-book collection offerings sporting 3-D covers were also designed by my son's artist friend. The cover for my stand-alone short story Down South was a royalty-free and payment-free option I found online as long as I gave the artist an online mention. Which I've done for all the artists I've used (including my son's kindergarten artwork replicated for my Checklist series, using differing colors for each book). For my short story collections #1 and #2, I used another royalty-free and payment-free photo. For my quotations series, I arranged the photograph myself. For my Catch Me novella, I drew a freehanded whimsical cover for that romance story. For my upcoming fiction series, I plan to freehand another cover, one that'll be used as the main background art for all the book covers in that series. For my latest upload, Stress Less: 365 Tips, I used bright colors for the text and one repeated keyboard symbol to style that cover. At the time of each book's publication, I selected my cover art, then added in the appropriate title, my name as the author (or as editor for the quote collections) and a tag line as needed, all via the free GIMP software. It comes with a lengthy downloadable instruction manual, but you may find it easier (and faster) to check out YouTube's various videos on certain GIMP functions instead.
  3. Storytelling. Obviously, as the sole author (no ghost writers involved), I've written the books (both fiction and nonfiction), which is the biggest time investment. Some involved research too. Plus Microsoft Word's spell-checker helps to catch most of the grammar issues and misspellings. But you still need the human touch of two kinds of editors.
  4. Two Kinds of Editing. Thankfully I'm both a developmental editor (the big-picture plot doctor aka the DEing) and a copy editor (the grammar and spelling police aka the CEing), so I currently do my own DEing and CEing of my work, along with some help by my two primary CPs. When I doctor my own books, it does work best if I let the book lay dormant for at least one week before I first do a DE, finding and fixing plot holes, etc., then I can follow that with a CE in a couple days.
  5. Formatting. I'm not a professional formatter, but my layman's formatting efforts serve me well when I preview via KDP. I may not (yet) be able to do drop caps, but I can present a clean and easily readable book. I give credit mostly to the use of Microsoft Word's Styles for chapter heads and subheads, and using autoindent functions under Paragraph for text. For those not familiar with Word, you'll find numerous videos on the subject by searching YouTube. Also I have a recent detailed formatting post here on this blog.
  6. Brainstorming. In the past, I brainstormed by myself, hoping for revelations to get me unstuck as I unloaded the dishwasher or worked in the yard. Now I have a few authors who help me brainstorm. Plus I like to think of my four (to date) quotation volumes as thousands of writing prompts, each volume containing over one thousand. So when I get mired in my plot, I visit one of my own e-books for inspiration (plus I have a manila folder with pictures and sayings and whatnot to spur me on too).
  7. Marketing. This is where I bow out. I only blog or enjoy pinning to Pinterest or the occasional tweet now and then. Otherwise I believe in basically four mantras: (a) that the opening of each book sells that book, while the ending of each book sells the next book by that author, (b) that the best marketing tip is to write your next book, (c) that series are a great boon to authors, and (d) that your intended readership finds you once word of mouth gets around, usually after the third to fifth book in your particular series. I hope so as I'm working on my Book 1 of my first fiction series. That may make a big difference in my royalty checks. If so, I'll let you know.
And that's it. I've spent close to zero dollars on my eighteen e-book releases (not counting my time involved). So it can be done even when the author is penniless. But the beauty of Indie publishing is that, when we Indie authors have more money, we can upgrade our covers, our text formatting, our various book options (hardcover, paperback, audio, e-book). If we really have some extra money to throw at our marketing, we can hire a publicist and a social media secretary.

So I hope I've proved that this writing gig can be done with little to no money to start out. Don't let a lack of funds stop you from writing if that is your big dream, your goal. Go for it!

And a happy and safe Thanksgiving to all you US residents!


"If your vocation isn’t a vacation, then quit, leap, change careers."

Denise Barker, Author, Blogger, Copy Editor
Books that Build Character(s)