How to Kick Your Own Butt

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Throughout my career as a writer, there have been times when I’m just not feeling it. I would much rather perform dental surgery on my dog than sit down and force myself to write. And who could blame me when there are so many compelling reasons why writing can wait?

  • Time to prospect. A big part of freelancing is finding new clients and new projects, so this is actually a legitimate excuse. Applying for actual jobs is also a valid reason to put off writing.
  • Work gets in the way. Unfortunately, I tend to neglect my blog when I’m working full-time, mostly because I have a limited amount of free time and prefer to spend that time with my family.
  • Yay! Friends With Benefits is on again! When you work from home, sometimes, you get desperate for the sound of another human’s voice and rely on the TV for companionship. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
  • There are other, more pressing things to do. Writers can be inveterate procrastinators and we’re great at finding something else to do.
  • Squirrel! I fully admit to being easily distracte…
  • I suck. I suck. I suck. Unfortunately, sometimes, abject self-loathing can be part of the writing process and is to be avoided at all costs.
  • Ugh. I have nothing to say (see also: I have nothing interesting to say). Many writers hate the process of writing because it can be tedious and intense. Add a case of writer’s block to the equation and there is nothing less appealing than writing.

 

However, the problem is that laziness creates a lack of inertia. And while objects at rest tend to stay at rest, I prefer forward momentum. Start by asking yourself for the real reason behind your procrastination – if there are things on your to-do list that aren’t truly important, delegate them. If nothing else, step away from the computer and go for a walk, take a deep breath and interact with other humans. Finally, go for it. The sooner you’re done, the sooner you can do something else.

A Tale of Two Kitties

Cat

Actually, this is a tale of 17+ kitties, to be exact. I’m freelancing at an advertising agency this week and am enjoying the corner cubicle of someone who has the good fortune of a full-time job with paid vacation time (sigh…). Like any good armchair sociologist, I looked around her space today to get a better idea of who its resident is. Granted, I have no idea who she is, but I do know that she is married with four cats, a dog and a husband. How do I know this? During my inspection of her cube, I noticed several framed photos of her beloved furbabies and only one of her husband, in addition to several cartoons and clipped photos of cats, her cat calendar and an usual amount of kitty knick-knacks. In fact, the feline artifacts seemed to multiply during the day. I may have unwittingly stumbled into the cube of a crazy cat lady.

That’s the beauty of being a freelancer. We take on brief projects and sit in your cubicle while you’re on vacation. So what do freelancers learn about you while you’re luxuriating on the beach? Let’s see…

Daydream Believer

There’s a delicate balance between a hobby and an obsession, so if your cube is covered with photos and artifacts of your favorite hobby, we wonder if you spend more time daydreaming about your hobby than actually doing your work.

Outgoing Creative Type

Photos of your family and candy dishes are great conversation-starters and the beginning of a great creative space. This is obviously the spot where people want to hang out and collaborate. Sweet office supplies, bright décor and interesting knick-knacks help make sharing a cube a little more bearable.

Mommy Dearest

This is an easy one to spot. The cube walls are plastered with kid artwork and there are countless photos of toothless smiles and sweet little faces. You’re proud of your kids. We get it. Freelancers with kids will sigh and miss their own little ones, while freelancers without kids wonder if you’re secretly a crazy Tiger Mom. They’ll also rifle through your desk drawers for candy and fruit roll-ups.

The Boss

Name plaques, certificates and large books signify importance. Count on us to not touch your hidden snacks and to put your office supplies back exactly where you left them.

The Slob

Is messiness a sign of creative genius? Or an utter disregard for hygiene? Either way, there is nothing like temporarily sharing a space with someone who leaves stacks of paper everywhere and half-eaten food in their desk drawer. Germophobe freelancers will be loathe to touch anything on your desk. Well played, Pigpen.

The Minimalist

This no-nonsense person likes to keep his or her work and personal life separate and isn’t especially interested in making their workspace cozy.  You’ll find the basic office supplies in their cube and that’s about it. This person could also be new to the company or on their way out.

The Jokester

This person has random photos on their desk that scream “inside joke,” office supplies fashioned into creative décor and weird novelty items on their desk. Obviously, this is the fun person in the office.

Ballpit Cube

As for Crazy Cat Lady, while I love my cat, I don’t quite get her feline obsession. But I’m willing to overlook it because she left a very detailed description of the things I need to know while I’m filling in for her, which makes her aces in my book.

How to Suck at Social Media

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There are two kinds of companies in today’s world—those who rock at social media, and those that don’t. The following is, obviously, a collection of things not to do, unless you prefer to fly under the social media radar. And, in that case, go forth and suck with style. You have my permission.

 

Be self-centered

Everything you do in social media should drive sales, right? Wrong. Your social media accounts are tools to build relationships and turn casual fans into brand evangelists. The best way to do this is to start the relationship slowly and follow the 90-10 rule: 90% of your content should be educational and only 10% should be sales-oriented. Repeat after me: social media is NOT advertising.

 

Ignore, ignore, ignore

If you want to be truly awful at social media, ignore comments and questions from your fans. And, for heavens’ sake, if you absolutely have to answer your fans, take your sweet time. Sure, if you take longer than 24 hours to respond, your fans will be disappointed, but maybe the delay will keep them coming back to your page to look for an answer (and in the meantime, they can read all about your latest sale).

 

Consistency is for chumps

Engagement is the key to truly great social media, but so many companies fall short because they don’t post enough. You should try to post at least twice per day. If you’re confused about when the best times to post are, SocialBro is an amazing site that lets you know when your fans are the most active. If you don’t have time to post, I highly recommend Buffer for scheduling tweets and Facebook posts.

 

Metrics? Please.

If you’re going to invest your time in social media, you need to know if what you’re doing is paying off. SproutSocial and Facebook Insights have tons of stats about your posts and how well they’re being received.

 

Engage in dysfunctional relationships

Loving only those who don’t love you back is the stuff of Lifetime movies, not social media. Dump those you follow who don’t follow you back. Likewise for people who haven’t tweeted in the past 60 days. Again, SocialBro is a great tool for determining the dead weight you need to eliminate.

 

Make like Mr Roboto

There is nothing like an automated direct message on twitter to make someone want to engage with your brand, right? Don’t engage directly with a fan unless it’s an actual message—that means no more “thanks for following” messages. Got it? And, for the love of all that is holy, stop sending direct messages to people who don’t follow you.

 

Entertain yourself

Finally, the best way to suck at social media is to post content that isn’t relevant to your brand. If you sell furniture, post the occasional recipe. If you run a non-profit organization that feeds needy kids, post Grumpy Cat memes. There’s nothing wrong with posting content that your fans will love and share (and maybe even keep the brand-relevant content you posted along with it!), but everything you post should be an extension of your brand.

The Day I Went Sleeveless to an Interview

Um…no thanks!

 

Last week, I had an interview for a job, so I planned my outfit down to the last detail. I was going to be the epitome of lady-like style in my jacket, dress, perfectly polished pumps, and sleek hairstyle. Mother Nature and my car had other plans for me: all week, the weather was about a thousand degrees and the car has no air conditioning and currently has a predilection for overheating. Lucky me.

 

Knowing that I was in for a hot ride to my interview, I set out to find an outfit that would keep me cool and potentially conceal any sweat stains. However, the sleeveless dress I chose required me to break the cardinal rule of interview attire: always wear a jacket. Meh. I could live without a jacket, right? So, I went…gasp…sleeveless to a job interview! The interview itself went great and perhaps I impressed them with both my ideas and my fashion moxie.

 

Why am I telling you this? I guess it’s because that moment of panic in front of my closet led to something of epiphany about all of the other times I had been too afraid to break the rules, even a little bit. I’ll be honest—the idea of breaking the rules and doing something unexpected scares the beejeezus out of me. But maybe that’s a good thing.

 

So, here’s my challenge to you. Do something this week that scares you, just a little bit, and report back. I want to know what it’s like for you when you reach your toe ever so slightly outside your comfort zone. That could mean reaching out to an old friend you haven’t talked to in years, reconnecting with a lost love, calling the HR lady to find out why you really didn’t get the job, etc. You get the idea. Post your stories here.

 

In the meantime, breathe into a paper bag. You’ll be just fine.

40 in 40

ImageI am down to the final 24 hours of my 30s. While most women feel dread about reaching this milestone, I’m not sure what I feel. I was a little busy in my 30s—I buried 1 mom and 1 fiance, found myself, refined my career (despite its refusal to define itself), got married, made a home, and had a baby. I feel as though this birthday is a defining moment.

It’s no secret that I have always been very involved in community service. In high school, I was involved in leader’s club, which was a service organization. During my radio years, I worked tirelessly as a spokesperson for causes that eventually shaped who I am, and, today, I am involved in Junior League of Columbus, as well as Girl Scouts.

So, my 40 in 40 project should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well—I made the commitment to perform 40 random acts of kindness during the 40 days leading up to my 40th birthday. What I didn’t expect was the profound affect it would have on my soul.

The project began in earnest—pay for the tab at McDonald’s for the car behind me in the drive-thru line, smile at random strangers, hold doors open, etc. But, the project began to take on a deeper meaning for me around the second week.

Act #18 was to learn to forgive the guy at work who was a total prima donna. I’m sure we all know this guy—he only deigns to work there because he has to, and he thinks all of his co-workers are talentless idiots and that we should all kiss the ground he walks on. For a while, I resented this guy because of his attitude and sense of entitlement. I found out that he didn’t like me because he finds my perky attitude annoying. Rather than immediately take offense, I started to delve into what made this guy the way he was—talented, but lonely and miserable (admittedly, initially, I took some joy in torturing him by being extra perky around him). My resentment quickly turned to compassion. I was eventually able to forgive him and overlook the disdain in his voice and the eye-rolling that occurred whenever someone else gave him direction. His ire wasn’t really directed toward me and I couldn’t hold on to the resentment without feeling a piece of my soul die every time I took pleasure in egging him on. It was time to let go—he was miserable, and it really had nothing to do with me, specifically. I was a nothing but convenient target for his misery. Sadly, he may never realize what really makes him the way he is, but he’ll always have my compassion.

This birthday is all about definition for me—clarifying who I am as a wife, sister, and friend. However, the one thing I will never forget about 40 in 40 is the insight that it has granted me, and, for that, I will always be grateful.

Confessions of a Digital Hoarder

This week, thanks to a post on my friend Sarah’s blog, I became fully aware of my digital obsession. I’m a multi-tasker. On second thought, it’s entirely possible I’m a hoarder in the digital space. Pass by my desk at work and you’ll see multiple tabs open on my web browser—on a good day it’s only two (Gmail and Hootsuite), but on a typical day, there are several tabs open. In addition to my email and social sites (where I monitor 2 Twitter accounts and 3 Facebook pages), I’m also listening to something on either Spotify or Pandora while bouncing between articles that I can’t live without reading. And then there’s work—luckily, in my field, a certain degree of online research is perfectly acceptable. Even at home, I’m multi-tasking—as we speak, I have 12 tabs open in my browser. Seriously.

So, what would I do in a non-digital world? Read?

Remember these?

I’m still surprised by how few people read actual books. Since when did a Kindle or a Nook become a replacement for the feel of an actual book in your hand or the sound of a page turning? I can’t be the only person who loved the slightly musty smell of an older book from the library, can I?

Sadly, I have replaced my newspaper obsession with an online one, but this is mostly an economic decision, given the number of newspapers I read on a regular basis.

Need to look up something?

Remember when research involved a trip to the library? And don’t get me started on the Dewey Decimal System and card catalogs.

Happy Birthday to…


A sorority sister mentioned to me that she never receives birthday cards, Christmas cards, or letters anymore, now that everyone and their mother is on Facebook. A sobering thought, considering how we pride ourselves in our ability to communicate anytime and anywhere with anyone. Hell, I couldn’t even find a picture of an actual card. How sad is that?

Fess up, fellow hoarders! How bad is your habit? And what do you miss?

Junior? Senior? Does it Really Matter?

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Before we answer that burning question, allow me to address another one—where have I been (or, more specifically, why haven’t I been keeping up with my blog?)? Truthfully, I’ve been busy. I’ve had some amazing opportunities to do some pretty incredible work with some of the smartest people I know, so like a good little careerist, I went for it. Along the way, I got to help launch an amazing product for kids, got to see my words on a billboard in Times Square, and even put a serious dent in getting started writing my book. All in all, it’s been a really productive break from blogging.

So, back to the issue at hand. Titles kind of annoy me because  I don’t think they’re indicative of the level of work you’re capable of doing. I know of several writers and designers who have been on the scene for a handful of years. They’re naturally talented and are more than capable of turning the lamest ideas into pure gold (see also: turd, polishing a). However, their relative lack of experience defines them as a junior level creative, which is actually kind of a professional insult, when you think about it.

The whole junior-senior level thing also affects us on a much more fundamental scale—money. Juniors make less, yet, in this economy, seniors are either forced to be ultra-competitive for even fewer jobs, or those few jobs go to juniors because they cost less to the company/client, which can have a lasting impact on the quality of the finished product, depending on the talent of the creative chosen to work on the project. Either way, we don’t really win this—talent no longer determines employability.

So, here’s my question—what determines whether or not you get the job? Is ability enough anymore?