Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Lighter Side of "My Change"

The human body is an amazing machine and does what it has to do as we grow and change…or that’s what I keep telling myself as I go through “The change” which will ultimately lead to the “M” word (hallelujah...no more monthly visits from my "little friend")! Years ago no one talked about Menopause but today it seems to be all the rage. It’s not something a woman goes through alone anymore but is now an experience the whole family can enjoy!

Since it’s been playing on my mind lately I decided that I would write an article for Suite 101 on the lighter side of “The Change.” I posted a note on a couple of the groups I’m part of requesting stories and experiences from a humorous point of view (these are writing groups so I thought I would get some great stuff). The silence was deafening. So far, I have received two comments to my post. The first one from a male group member who said he wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole (I asked for the husband/boyfriend/life partner perspective too). The second comment came from a group member who was concerned about my use of the out-moded term “The Change.” She said that it reminded her of how her mother used to refer to this time in a woman’s life with a “whiff of shame.” I think that no matter what century you’re living in, your body is going through changes (just like any other phase in life) and my use of the term “in quotations” is sort of tongue in cheek. Am I the only one who can laugh at it?

I’ll start with my own funny story and maybe trigger some from others who stumble upon my musings just to show that it doesn’t hurt to see the comedy in these scenarios:

So…I was lying in bed one night tossing and turning, having a particularly difficult time falling asleep. My husband reached over and put his hand on my shoulder…and it literally slid off. I grinned, and then started to giggle to myself. I turned over to look at him and we both burst out laughing. As I wiped off the beads of sweat that had formed on my upper lip I thought to myself, “Thank God we live in a climate that’s usually hotter than my hot flashes.” His laughter was a little more tentative than mine – he not knowing when it may turn into tears or anger that he was laughing at my unfortunate physical discomfort and mine a belly laugh fuelled by a just a touch of hysteria. You know the type.

There are a myriad remedies for the symptoms that are too lengthy to list here but the old saying that laughter is the best medicine holds true here more than anywhere. I’d love to hear more funny stories. There are so many sad stories and clinical studies swirling around this topic so I think it’s time to lighten up! I mean no disrespect to women who are having a tough time and are probably experiencing more extreme symptoms than I am (I have friends who had no choice but to go on HRT or someone was going to die). My heart goes out to you but I also believe that the emotional release of a good belly laugh can only help.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Don't Procrastinate...Produce

Well, the last two days have been spent procrastinating. I've got lots to write but just couldn't get down to it. Then it dawned on me that I'm giving a workshop in two weeks called, "Don't Procrastinate...Produce," and it ironically occurred to me that I should put my own advice to good use. I was using every excuse in the book (and creating a few new ones for good measure). We had just gotten back from vacation so I certainly didn't need a rest - maybe a vacation from my vacation? The biggest reason I couldn't get at it was I just didn't "feel" like it. I guess it was just good old fashioned writer's block. Yeah, right! I sat and stared back and forth from the screen to the list of articles and blogs that were awaiting my attention. Then, bling! I couldn't help my eyes from straying to the bottom right of my computer screen to see who had just sent me an email or was trying to chat with me on FaceBook. Too many distractions! So, what's my advice for workshop participants? Get rid of them. Sometimes that's easier said than done and this week was a prime example. But, I sucked it up and draaaaagggggggedddddd my mouse to the sign out link on Facebook and then closed down my email. O.K. Now I was ready...or was I? The cat wandered in behind me and let out a forlorn cry. I had to stop what I was doing and give him a little pat...didn't I? O.K. Maybe a coffee would help. Half an hour later I'm back at the keyboard watching the flashing curser, willing it to start moving and spill out some scintillating prose. My fingers still remained motionless on the keyboard. This was actually getting painful. The last resort (even when on deadline) is to get away from the desk, out into the fresh air and (in my case) head to the beach. A total shift in place, time and energy always does the trick for me. So, why didn't I think of it before? After a couple of hours, I returned, sat down at the computer and my fingers started flying over the keyboard. Procrastination over...blog complete!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Rate Negotiation Dance

In my role as a freelance copy writer I am constantly reviewing and evaluating the rates I charge. I talk to other freelancers, I read advice on how to set your rates, I calculate how many hours I want to work and how much to charge hourly or per word in order to make a "decent" living (in a recent discussion on a LinkedIn group we talked about peanut butter verses caviar). It’s a real tight rope walk, especially if you’re an expat living overseas. I’m a Canadian living in Dubai. It’s tough to set rates when the range is as dramatically broad as there are myriad types of writing. When you’re based “globally” what is a fair market price? Do you set prices based on the US dollar (which is scary considering the direction it’s going) or the currency of the market in which you’re currently based? I’ve seriously contemplated having multiple rate sheets depending on the client’s location. That seems to me to be the best approach. Right now, being based in Dubai, my rates are quoted in Dirhams. However, since as freelance writers we can work from wherever we are in the world and our clients are multi-national, I do also have a rate sheet quoted in US dollars. So, is it a direct conversion? It should be but it’s not because the value of a professional freelance writer varies from country to country. A writer based in India charges far less for their work than one based in the West (purely because of cost of living). It’s even the same within some countries. When I was living in the States a writer in New York could charge more than one living in Florida (probably the cost of living issue again). Here in Dubai it’s an even more confusing jumble, with expats from all over the world working here. We’re all living in the same country but each group seems to be paid in line with what they could command in their home country (with some exceptions, of course). With the virtual nature of the business world, a company has the ability to tap into resources from anywhere in the world so the rates charged by those of us who choose to live in countries or cities with a higher cost of living are much higher and, therefore, less competitive…or are they? So, my conclusion at this point in time is that I believe it’s my responsibility to demonstrate to a client the added value of using my services. No matter where in the world you are, a combination of skills, experience, reputation and professionalism in any field are a rare commodity. Professional writing is an expertise and should be viewed as such. I’d love to hear from other freelancers and consultants how they tackle this challenge.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Finding the right Social Networking Rhythm

I am now officially a self-proclaimed social networking junkie. I’m on FaceBook (managing both my own personal page as well as a non-profit group for which I volunteer). I’m on Twitter, Linkedin, Plaxo, Classmates.com and more. I’m following more people on Twitter than I could ever truly keep up with, am a member of numerous “groups” on all of the above mentioned networks and could spend 24/7 just reading and chatting. I could go on but I’ll stop there since I’ve decided it’s time to pare down and only manage what I truly have time for and is fruitful in any way.

So, the challenge becomes, how do you “separate the wheat from the chaf?” Fruitful can mean different things to different people. Sometimes little intriguing nuggets lead to bigger nuggets and you’re following link after link and spiralling down a dark tunnel of information overload with no end in sight.

The first step is to define what “being fruitful” means to you. What is most important to you in life? After pondering for a long time, I came up with a short list: family, friends, travelling, building my business and volunteering (which I’ve pared down as well and focus mostly on an organization called Room to Read…but I digress. More on that in another post). For each of the life priorities I come up with, I looked at which Social Networking platforms bring me the most enjoyment or advice/resources. For family and friends, I chose to keep my FaceBook page but I only invite people to be my friend or accept friends who I really do know and wish to be in contact with. For this, I look for quality, not quantity. Some people get shear enjoyment by having thousands of “friends.” I believe that’s when you get yourself in trouble with things like identity theft, cyber stalking, etc. (yet another topic to explore at a later date).

Continuing to pare down, I looked more closely at Classmates.com and I realized it was just duplicating what I could do with FaceBook and was charging for it too. I eliminated it!

I thought this philosophy would be smart to apply to all my online networking endeavours. I then compared Linkedin with Plaxo. It seemed to me that LinkedIn has a more professional look and feel and has more resources and some great industry specific groups. I plan to discontinue Plaxo and will focus my time and energy (from a business networking perspective) on Linkedin. Groups I have joined through Linkedin to help me grow my business and develop professionally as a writer include the Freelance Writer’s Connection and Writer’s Showcase, both of which are incredible resources for new and established writers.

Another decision I made was to totally separate personal and professional. I do not send business associates to my FaceBook page. I have a website (www.globalwritingsolutionsonline.com ) which is a more appropriate and professional avenue to share information on my experience and the services I provide as a freelance writer. My clients don’t need to see the photos of my trip to Canada!

I love my Twitter and will be keeping it! I use my Twitter account (@annethewriter) for more professional purposes. I don’t “tweet” what I had for breakfast. I don’t care how well you know me…I can’t imagine why anyone would be interested in that tidbit of information. I use Twitter to send out information on business seminars or leads, networking opportunities, advice to writers, business questions, updates on any of the charities I follow, helpful hints, motivational or inspirational thoughts, etc. I also use it to follow other writers who provide thought-provoking insight and sometimes a little comic relief.

So basically, my personal “Social Networking Rhythm” has become: only that which is enjoyable and fruitful, don’t mix personal with professional and keep it to a manageable volume. What’s yours?