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Generation Y is Tailor Made for Freelancing

Over the past few years traditional businesses have lamented about the hiring difficulties involved with “Generation Y”, the generation just after Douglas Coupland’s famous Generation X’ers.  They want too much money, they do work with Ipod earbuds in their ears and they instant message faster than a Guitar Hero champion can shred the final level.  All this and they tend to do a good job, so they can’t be faulted for these little idiosyncracies without immediately looking for and getting hired at another firm.

Today’s article on msnbc.com about Generation Y getting “hit hard” by the downturn is obviously written from the previous generational standpoint.  What most Gen X’ers don’t get is Generation Y’s inherent capacity to not freak out.  This is why they don’t kiss ass and promptly throw policy and procedure books in the garbage straight from the mailroom.  It isn’t that they don’t care, they just see through corporate bullshit in about two seconds.

If they have the skill, most Gen Y’ers make excellent freelance writers.  They work to deadlines without anxiety and they inherently “get” writing for the web, a skill those used to writing for print need to actually learn.  My advice to those that the writer of this piece marginalizes as hobos on the career highway, probably out of fear that they will snap up his job, is to pick up a book on freelance writing and see if you think you can manage it.  With the proper background, I’m willing to bet that most of you can.

Working or Freelancing in a Harsh Economy

In difficult economic times we are faced with difficult decisions about what we do for a living.  We may have enjoyed the freedom of freelancing, but now want a steady paycheque.  We may have a full-time day job, but are concerned about the direction that the company is taking and may want to take the plunge to freelancing full-time.  What is right for you?

Working Full-Time

The major downside to working full-time right now is that you may not be working full-time for long.  Most of us have experienced extra pressure at work due to the lack of people at the office to help out with merely the promise that our job will be there for us to keep us hanging on.  If you feel that your company’s position is precarious at best, start prepping both your resume and your portfolio for freelancing should things go south.  Besides, you’ll always feel better knowing that you have freelancing to rely on rather than the gaping abyss of nothing that most office workers are trained to be fearful of.  Believe it or not, your work performance will actually improve if you know that you have something to fall back on.

Freelancing

The best news for freelancers right now is the tanking economy.  Yes, we’re vultures, but the facts are that work remains to be done at companies even when the people who are supposed to be doing the work are laid off.  We’re cheaper than hiring an employee full-time and we can usually get the job done on time and under budget.  Companies are starting to wise up to this and more of them are posting ads for freelancers.

Don’t go with your first instinct and take cheap jobs, unless you are just starting out and building your portfolio.  Basically, if I haven’t posted it here, it’s too cheap for you.  No matter who you are.  I know I’ve just ruled out most jobs on Elance and Guru but there’s a reason for that – cheap buyers use these sites and generally get what they pay for.  It is perfectly reasonable to expect that you can get freelance jobs simply by picking up your phone or trolling this or other freelance job listing sites without paying any membership fees.

Your Requirements

Sit down and do a budget based on what you spend for bills, groceries, and entertainment.  If you feel that you can meet this budget through a freelance income, go for it.  If you don’t feel that you can, start doing it part-time to build up a portfolio so that if you decide to do it in the future, you can.  If you feel that you can meet your budget, go for it.

Do a Little of Both

For me, the ideal freelance mix is half a day of steady gigs and half a day of new projects.  This is my goal.  I’ve managed to get it up to about a quarter of my day on steady gigs and the rest of my day on new projects and self-marketing.  Blogging on your own blogs, if you have niche topics that you would consider yourself an expert in, can also earn you some advertising revenue on the side as well as serving as active portfolio pieces for potential clients.  You won’t get rich doing this, but it can’t hurt you either.  Blogging definitely keeps you practicing your craft and honing your skills.  Pretty soon you will find yourself commanding higher rates and you can do away with the cheaper jobs entirely.

For others, a part-time job may fill in the mix quite nicely.  Part-time telecommuting jobs are usually out there in the form of transcription services, search engine marketing and other items that can be done over the internet.  Most are eager to hire writers as they already know that they have the language skills down.  Apply to as much as you can and something will stick to the wall – don’t ever be afraid that you are applying to too much unless your slate is truly full.

What Does It Take to Succeed

Persistence, a certain amount of sales acumen and of course writing skill will ensure that you “make it” as a freelance writer.  I will be honest and slightly insulting for a moment – I would say that a good 50% of the websites for writers that I have seen out there sport writing samples that I wouldn’t feed to my cat.  I am one of those perfectionist types but if you have any modicum of actual skill, you will probably succeed.  I get the feeling that a lot of people just take up freelance writing because they think it is an easy work-at-home job, not because they have real skill at it.  Writing skill isn’t something that you can learn either – you either have it or you don’t.  Any writers reading this will know what I am talking about and I am sorry if I have offended anyone.  However, if you don’t feel that you have writing skill, you should probably stick to the full-time job as you either do not have the necessary confidence or skill to make it.

You also need razor-sharp focus.  You will have many balls in the air as a freelance writer and you must have the ability to organize and focus on your top priorities.  If you need people to tell you what to do, this isn’t the career path for you.  There will also be many times where you have to tell your family to buzz off and leave you alone to work – if you can’t handle that it is best to bow out now.

For those of you who have read this far and have dismissed these obstacles as minor, congratulations.  I hope that you make it as a freelance writer and I really hope that some leads from my site help you to get there.  The only way I am looking to monetize this site is through ads, so don’t worry that I’m some used car salesman looking to list-build and do whatever the internet marketing kids are calling things these days – I’m a writer and I want to help other writers.  End of story.  Let’s all get through these harsh times together as best we can.

Jobs I won’t Post

Just in case any of you were wondering about criteria over here at freelancewritingjobs.ca, here are a list of jobs I will not foist upon you, my fellow writers:

Student Wanted

Oh, no.  Generally people “want” students because they want to beat them up and not pay them.  If you are a student, run far and fast from these jobs.  You can get a well-paid gig as a student no matter what someone tells you, which brings us to our next criteria.

You Suck, You Need to Build a Portfolio

This is a great job to build a portfolio – with a website or magazine that nobody knows about, mostly.  If slate.com or wired.com tell you that they are a good site to build your portfolio with, believe them; Slate and Wired would never do that though, being respectable online publications.  Again, probably trying to get you to work for free or very little by trying to make an impact on your self-esteem.  Us writers aren’t exactly historically known for being self-confident types.  Although I am fabulous.

Anybody Could Do This Job

If the job description has anything in it vaguely resembling “I could do this, I just don’t have the time” (unless it is coming from another writer, in which case it is valid) or “anyone could do this with a little research”, it doesn’t make the cut.  Language like this is usually a veiled attempt to foist a much larger project on you than you would be willing to take on at that pay grade.  If anyone could do it, they should be calling a temp agency, not looking for a writer.

I Hate Dealing With Writers

I have seen a few ads like this.  On occasion they are from valid companies that have just been burned before by hiring writers over the internet.  Personally, I don’t like dealing with people who are starting with me from a point of suspicion; it doesn’t make for a good foundation to a working relationship.  I usually pass these over unless my gut is telling me that it may be valid.

Unclear Ad

If the ad is just unclear about the intentions of the author, I usually pass it over.  Vague ads are usually recruitment links for essay agencies or services that ask you to pay for leads – NEVER PAY FOR LEADS.  The only sites you should join if you want to pay for leads are Elance or Guru and I wouldn’t recommend that unless you are seriously hard up.

Work All Day on My Sample

If someone wants a short sample in their niche and it isn’t in my portfolio, I do it with a line that I retain copyright until it is purchased attached in the e-mail.  If they don’t purchase it, it goes in my portfolio.  This is the best way to build your portfolio if you don’t have one – targeted samples.

If, however, they want you to spend an afternoon on a “sample”, say no.  I recently got suckered by one of these gigs because I didn’t properly gauge the amount of work that they wanted for the sample.  If it takes you more than an hour to do, forgettaboutit.

Essay Jobs

If you have spent any time on my blog you will feel the special love that I have for students that pay for essays and the companies that write them.  I hate them.  In fact, every time I see an ad on Craigslist, I flag it and encourage my friends to do the same.  Make the internet an inhospitable place for them to do business and they will be forced to turn to less easy measures that may get them caught and expelled (if they are students) or sued (if they are essay mills).  Join together with me, fellow writers, and flag the bejeezus out of these guys.

That’s pretty much it for my criteria.  I also won’t post repeat ads that were posted within a week of each other.  I recommend going back at least two weeks and applying for jobs if you are brand new to this blog – they don’t all get snapped up the day that they come in.

Writing For Business Owners

There are a lot of us writers out there that you can hire to write your website or collateral copy.  Generally, we are awesome at what we do and will give you better results than you expected.  Heck, some of us may even give you new ideas for your business that you just wouldn’t have come up with on your own.  However, if you are just starting your business and either don’t want a writer or just can’t afford one at the moment, here are a few free tips to help you along.

1.  Don’t Cut and Paste

What works in a brochure will not work on a website and vice versa.  Despite the plethora of internet marketers who insist on that bastion of hellish evil called a “landing page”, you don’t want your website to be an endless string of sales jargon.  You want to save the hyperbole and distill it all into a “call to action” rather than spending pages of valuable web space on stuff that will make your users click off faster than you ran after your best friend’s mother when you were 16.  However, that shit skates in brochures.  Don’t ask me why – I have simply been told this by learned people who are wiser than I in the ways of the marketing.  Yes, the same stuff that irritates and insults web users keeps a brochure reader rapt with attention.  The important thing for you to note is that the two mediums deserve two unique styles and while there is more to it than this, this will at least get you started.

2.  Grammar and Spelling Matter

I was recently sitting in a lobby waiting for a job interview when I noticed that a very prominent sign which boasted only a couple of short sentences commited at least three grammar and spelling sins.  Now kids, if you are going to go to the trouble of putting a sign in your lobby, it should have the Queen’s English on it and not the ramblings of a person who grammar has forgot.  Most word processing programs have a grammar and spell checker.  Turn both on and make sure that you don’t just hit “ignore” when the wavy little lines pop up.  Assume that the software knows better than you do and make changes until the little wavy lines go away.

Why are you bothering to do this?  Professionalism.  No matter how little your company has to do with writing, the media or other related industries, poor writing makes your company look unprofessional.  You shouldn’t let anything get out to your consumers that makes you look anything less than completely polished.  Hiring a professional writer will help you fulfill this goal, but until you can get there just try to make sure of it on your own.

3.  Keep it Interesting

While you may be simply amazed by the engineering behind your product, don’t be surprised if nobody else is.  Most people just want to know that your product is going to do something desirable for them.  If you can convince them that it will, you will sell it.  Extolling the virtues of the technology behind the product will only work on a certain segment of the population, usually those who idolized Mr. Scott as a kid.  Engineers, I am totally talking to you.  The rest of the world just couldn’t give a flying shit that your springs are chromium-emblazoned with the image of the Christ Child and this is how you can teleport chocolate directly into the mouths of hungry children of the Earth.  They just want the goddamned chocolate.

They also like cute stories and humour.  Injecting both into your marketing materials will keep the attention of your shoppers and earn their loyalty.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  If anyone out there can think of any other tips that you would care to share with the people that will hire you and me in the future, feel free to post them in the comments.

Dick Moves of Social Media

As an amusing start to your Friday, I share with you the Dick Move video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Sq2qhXabY[/youtube]

I especially like the “All Foam” and “Toyota Echo” bits.  Masterful.  So how does this apply to writing you ask?  Maybe not so much to writing, but to that ubiquitous animal called social media marketing.  If you are involved in SEO at all, you are familiar with the practice of commenting on blogs and other various interactions in the digital world.  Here are some social media “Dick Moves”:

1.  Inappropriate Blog Comments

“Wow!  Love your blog on actuary investments in long term hedge fund vehicles.  Read five words of it and it changed my life.  No really.  Visit russianporn.org.com for smokin’ hot babes and free drugs.”  Yeah.  Because that is relevant.  If you are going to pigeon poop on other blogs, make sure that you at least read them and that they are somewhat relevant to your niche.  Otherwise your comments are liable to get zapped faster than you can say “Dick Move”.

2.  Zapping Everyone On Your Facebook Friends List

If you go all network marketing zongo nuts and decide to e-mail everyone on your Facebook friends list with this GREAT OPPURTUNITY you heard about, you are very likely going to end up sans a few Evites in your immediate future.  Make a fake account like the rest of us and use it for odd sex requests and social media marketing.  You’re welcome.  Dick.

3.  Contribute Absolutely Nothing In Forums

Just one step below pigeon dropping your links on blogs is doing the same on forums.  Many people now avoid forums because of these spam techniques used by – well – spammers.  If you haven’t been hanging out on the forum for a good month, coming in and dropping your link will get you banned.  Dick.

Any other dick moves?  Post them in the comments.  Links will be zonked but you can have fun trying.