Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: Social Media Sucks!: (If You Don't Know What You're Doing)

Social media sucks: if you don't know what you're doing - It's totally true! I have found myself practically screaming at my computer screen because I've been incredibly frustrated in the past with some social media platform or another. So, when I came across this book, I purchased the ebook version with every intention of sucking down the information because I'm relatively new to the social media realm. When I say "new," I mean new to actually having a firm grasp of what I'm doing.

As a result of my intermittent hard work, I have over 4000 likes on my Facebook page, about 450 followers on Twitter, and over 300 followers on Instagram. Let me tell you a little secret. I just started building my pages back in January. I think it was January, it may have been later than that. I'll have to verify that, but honestly I have so many posts that if I try to sort through them to pinpoint the exact date when I started, then I'll be there for at least 30 minutes. I'll just stick with January for now. Anyway, it has taken a lot of time and effort to get to this point. It's definitely rewarding. The best part is that I'm not finished yet!

The author, Sebastian Rusk, gives you a detailed personal account of how he experienced amazing success only to hit rock bottom shortly after. He realized he knew a lot about social media and so his journey began.

As an aside, I actually found Sebastian through Yelp. Someone posted a thread in the forum about a meeting in Miami. At the time, I happened to be looking for information about social media. I had no idea as to who Sebastian was or what he was about. However, after browsing the comments in the forum, I realized that he was kind of an expert on social media, so I went to Amazon, and immediately purchased the ebook.

It was an easy and engaging read. He provided a lot of information about how social media works without getting too technical. There is a lot of information to absorb when it comes to social media and networking. Sebastian has an incredible "can-do," "will-accomplish" attitude that resonates throughout the entire book. He presents examples of things he did, and you know what?? You can easily take his examples and do something similar for your own projects.

Everything you do, online and offline, is a form of social media. From your interactions with the grocery store clerk to your interactions with clients and friends, you are being social and participating in social media. Another thing, you do not have to have an online presence for your customers to talk about you. In today's world, positive or negative, they will post about you anyway.

He explains that many companies do not understand that if they do not have a social media platform, then they are pretty much dead in the water. Wouldn't you prefer to be present to guide the conversation and address their concerns? Or to simply be there to say, "Hey, we appreciate your business. Thanks for being awesome!" I'm speaking from experience when I say that there is nothing worse than a company that ignores your concerns.

You know, he touches on the point that social media and your platform are what you use to communicate with your audience. It's not really where you shove your product in their face. You want to create a conversation with them. You share content they like and find useful. You want your audience to trust and like you. Today, people want to connect instantly. They see something about your company and they want to know about it now, not later.

Also, with social media, you're creating your "voice." Without a voice, you're simply not there. If you do not stay at the top of people's head, then they forget about you. Stay relevant and on the top of their minds. Don't be forgotten! Maintain a conversation with your followers and don't throw your product at them all the time. Be consistent.

For example, I post on my blog for the benefit of my readers. Once I finish typing this out, I'll post it to all of my social media platforms. Sure, I have the affiliate link in the picture at the bottom of this post, so I might make a little money from that. I also have Adsense, but I really don't make any money off of advertising. My main goal is to provide a review about this book because I found it to be incredibly useful. Maybe you'll appreciate it enough to want to purchase the book. Or, maybe you won't. Either way, I liked the book, and if I can help someone with it, then that's great!

He points out that most businesses never listen to their consumers. Listen to what the people want! If you're not listening, then they'll find someone who will listen. It can make or break your business. Social media really is that powerful.

The information he shares in his book are broken down really well. His enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring—even just from the pages of this book. He also touches on word of mouth, why social media is a "must" and no longer a "should," how value will attract customers, and so much more! There is much more to this book than what I've included above, but if I keep going, I may as well write my own book!

Hopefully, this review has provided some insight into social media, making you intrigued enough to want to check out the book below! Click on the image for more information regarding the purchase of "Social Media Sucks: If You Don't Know What You're Doing."

Thanks, Sebastian, for all of the great information!!

Have a great one everyone!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Find a Niche Writing Market

How do you find a niche writing market? And, what exactly is a niche market? It can be confusing for people just getting into freelance writing because there are so many opportunities. Let's face it, you can't be a one-stop shop writer, like a Walmart or Target. Well, you can, but if you specialize in something, then your odds are better than if you don't. Some think that it's better to go where the money is and then develop your passion. Others disagree and say the opposite is better. It's really up to you to decide.

What is a Niche Market?
Let's begin with defining it. It is a specific section of the market that you choose to target. Simply choosing to be a freelance writer of everything is too comprehensive. You want to narrow it down and target a specific audience. Basically, pick something and become an expert at it. Spend time increasing your knowledge and focus on that target. Eventually, your expertise makes you an authority on it. A writer who specializes in hair coloring is more likely to draw a larger audience than a writer who writes about beauty as a general subject. A basic beauty blog will be all over the place, making it difficult to follow if you want something specific.

And realistically, one is good, two (maybe even three) is even more strategic. What if the market collapses on the niche you chose? You'll be left trying to pick up the pieces because you put everything into that single basket. What if you find you really don't like it after spending a year working on it? It's better to have a few. Any expert worth their salt will agree that it's good to be versatile. Furthermore, you can't write about everything for everyone, but you can specialize in a few topics.

How to Find a Niche Writing Market
Now, how do you go about finding your niche market? It's not as simple as scrolling through a list and picking something. Some writers develop their niche through writing about many topics and discovering one or two that do better than the rest. Additionally, you discover which topic you enjoy writing about the most in this manner. Even the most flexible writers have their favorite subjects.

Some people spend hours researching the marketplace to find something lucrative. Sometimes—even if they don't like it—they still write on it because of the hefty return in profits once they have developed it. Admittedly, until recently, I never actually settled on a writing niche. Although, I have written on a plethora of topics, some more than others. I know my personality. It doesn't matter how much money something *might* make me. If it's uninteresting or I can't get behind the product, then there's no way I can force myself to do it. I know because I've tried writing about topics that I KNOW make money, but I just can't do it.

It's important to choose topics that interest you, and then narrow it down from there if you want to jump right in. For example, let's say you want to write about beauty. OK, you'll want to narrow it down from there. Let's use hair again:

Beauty > Hair > Coloring > Coloring at Home

There are many topics within the hair coloring niche, so you don't have to stick with one subject, like these:

Beauty > Hair > Coloring > Coloring at Home > Color Correction
Beauty > Hair > Coloring > Coloring at Home > Blondes
Beauty > Hair > Coloring > Coloring at Home > Hair Color Removal
Beauty > Hair > Coloring > Coloring at Home > Balayage

See what I mean? However, if it's something like hair coloring, in which you have zero experience, skip it. There's a huge difference between writing in theory about how hair coloring should work and actually doing it. Also, as with all topics, it is to your advantage if you have hands-on experience. Since I highlight and cut my own hair, I'm speaking from experience. I would never take advice from someone who didn't seem to be an expert on hair coloring. I would never write about it either because I'm not an authority on the subject. I work with my hair and that's it.

People Want Solutions
That brings me to this. If someone has a problem and you can provide the solution, then you've hit the jackpot. People need/want a solution to their problem. Let's take weight loss for example. Lots of people want to lose weight. It's a ginormous, saturated market. Even so, there is ample opportunity to work on an angle for individuals trying to lose weight. You could do something like this:

Health > Fitness > Weight Loss > HIIT Training
Health > Fitness > Weight Loss > Running
Health > Fitness > Weight Loss > Dieting for Weight Loss

I'm sure you're catching on... If you can give someone the answer to their problem, then you're going to get results. You have to provide something they can use in their everyday lives. Is your solution useful for your readers? Are you helping them fix their problem? Is it unique and better than someone else's solution?

Research Your Options
Research, research, research. This brings me back to what I mentioned above: Write about as many topics as you can and develop your expertise. Write more, acquire more information, and then determine which one (or two!) pays the best. If the niche you chose is not profitable, then you will have to go back to the drawing board. If you write about several topics, then you can crunch the numbers between them. Not every market will be profitable.

Make a decision, then spend time researching companies that might need someone to write about their brand. If you're already writing in their niche and can demonstrate your expertise, then you might be able to land a writing contract out of it.

Don't forget to make contacts along with way.

Honestly, as a writer, when you combine your passions with hard work and a personal spin on things, then the possibilities are endless. Nobody is an expert when they start out. It takes a lot of time and effort with a strategy to really get anywhere and achieve results.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below! I appreciate any and all feedback.

Happy Writing!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Things to Consider Before Becoming a Writer

So, you're thinking about becoming a writer? There are some things to consider before you go down that path. Everyone has a story that will sell oodles of books and make them hard cash IF they can get it out of their head and onto paper. Obviously, for the majority of the population, this is just a pipe dream. Why? Because writing is work. If you're editing your own material—that's even more laborious. You really have to take into consideration all of the things that involve writing before making that leap.

Consider These Things

Why do you want to write? Before you start off on your quest to become a writer, can you answer this question? Do you like writing? Do you think it will be easy? Are you passionate about something that you want to share with everyone? Is it a hobby and you want to make it a career? You need to have a solid answer for this question.

What type of writing do you want to do? Have you researched the markets for the type of writing you would like to pursue? Or do you think that you're just going to crank out a novel and make millions in less than three months? Nah uh.. It doesn't work like that.

What's your niche? Are you an interior designer or a professional chef? Are you a specialist in snail racing? What do you do that will set you apart from the rest of us? When you take the time to become the best in a niche market, then you will most likely land the clients instead of the other guy. It's also important to make sure your niche is profitable. All niches are NOT made equal.

Don't limit yourself by putting all of your eggs in one basket. What does that mean, you ask? It's a job, contract, writing gig at a content mill, etc. Any job or project that you take on as a professional writer. Never limit yourself to one sole job. You never know what might happen. Stay on your toes, working on the next project as you work on the current one.

Do you have money set aside? Have enough set aside so you don't stress. Money trees don't exist and you'll probably be broke at first. It takes time and long hours to make any real money—especially if you have zero experience and samples. Don't fret, keep at it, and the clients will slowly trickle in.

Are you willing to make sacrifices? You know, like giving up your favorite shows and going out with your friends... You have to make time to write, put your butt in the chair and just do it. It will take up most of your time. Your life will probably revolve around writing, especially while you're still getting established.

Are you disciplined? If you do not have the discipline to do work on your own, then writing definitely isn't for you. You have to stay on top of your writing because nobody else is going to make you do it. It doesn't matter if you're tired or sick. You have bills and unless you have a monthly residual income of massive quantities, I assure you that you won't get paid. Be disciplined. Get up and write anyway.

How well do you work with others? Does your current job require constant interaction with clients or customers? If so, then you should be fine. Some clients will make life difficult. Some clients have no clue as to what they want or change their minds at the last minute. Thankfully, I've never had any difficult clients. Mine are easy to work with. <knocks on wood>

Do you have thick skin? No? You should probably grow some then! Living the life of a writer can be harsh at times. The criticism you might receive about your work once you put it out there in the public eye can be disheartening to the point you may even want to quit. Sure, you could quit, but it would be better to take criticism with a grain of salt and learn from it.

Never stop learning. Stay on top of the changes in the market and expand your knowledge. Read material produced by great authors. Write every day. You can blog or write in a journal, but write every single day. You will never become better if you're not learning, reading, and writing every day.

Don't listen to the naysayers. Believe that you can do it. Writers understand other writers. Others haven't the faintest idea of what it's like to be in our shoes. For example, fiction writers, we feel the words in the book as they come alive in front of our eyes. I know someone out there understands that feeling. So, don't believe someone who scoffs at the idea of you becoming a writer. If you are a writer, then you will feel compelled to write. Perhaps everything won't fall into place as quickly as you would like, but as long as you keep writing, then you will become successful. That's not to say you will become a millionaire, but making a comfortable living as a writer is absolutely attainable. The most important thing is to never give up.

If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below!

Working From Home - Customer Service/Sales Representatives

**This is an older post geared towards working from home as a customer service or sales representative. I accidentally reverted it back to draft, so I'm publishing it again because even though I'm changing the content on this blog; it's still useful information.**

Make sure that you do a thorough search on every company. Read through the Pros and Cons. Decide whether this is something you may be interested in taking a chance on. When in doubt, ask around. Join a few of the community boards. They are there for YOU, so utilize them!

Many customer service/sales positions require the same work environment:

- Landline telephone - Never a wireless phone - Must be a corded phone. I have used a wireless phone in the past. The battery runs out faster than you would imagine! I can't even begin to count the number of times my phone died in the middle of a transaction with a customer. That's a big NO-NO.

- Some allow VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) I have used VOIP with At&t Uverse in the past. I prefer a land line as opposed to this option because when the internet/power goes out, you lose your phone services as well. Trust me, stick with a landline. Hands down, it is more secure. I have a cell phone also, but what if it dies, breaks or something else? Plus, cell phones are notorious for dropping calls. You can't use your cell phone for this type of work. End of story. 

- A headset is required by every company. This allows for you to have full use of your hands for typing while engaging with the customer. 

- Basic computer skills are a MUST! You need to be able to navigate the internet/intranet. Fill out basic online forms, send/receive emails, upload/download attachments. Let me place emphasis on this point. Of course, you'll need basic computer skills to work from home—for any position. If you do not have these, you will not be successful. Learn them. Go beyond the basics to learn more. Never stop educating yourself. Make acquiring knowledge (and the application of that knowledge) your best friend. 

- Technical aspect - Every company has varying requirements regarding your internet speed, processor, RAM, screen size, operating system, etc. Some even require a webcam. Yep, that would mean you have to actually get dressed for work if you have to "attend" a webcam chat with your employer.

- Very little background noise - This means no children running around or dogs barking in the background. No television or music either. It might be unsettling to the customer to find out you are working from home because they give you their credit/debit card information or you have access to other personal information. For example, some think there is a higher risk of credit card theft or identity theft by giving someone outside of an office this information.  

Even though, it should be common knowledge that they might be speaking with an at-home representative, that isn't always the case. For the majority of the population, this doesn't even cross their mind. Not only that, but it is unprofessional to have constant interruptions when you should be focused on the customer. Play on your own time, not the company's time.  

- Lastly, most say you need to have a dedicated office space, but they aren't going to know if you are working from your bedroom/kitchen/living room. As long as it is quiet, they aren't going to really care. You do what you have to in order to get the job done.

Now, about these types of jobs:

This is a good stepping stone if you are just starting in the virtual world. Personally, this isn't for me anymore because my children make far too much noise. Plus, I am working on my writing which I enjoy. You will receive training on how to handle the customers who call in. Pay attention to your training and keep the materials handy, so if you have any questions, it is right there as a reference. 

You must be patient and able to empathize with the customer (even when you don't agree!) Also, you need to be capable of taking what is thrown at you and get the job done. Be prepared for change at any time. This line of work requires you to be fluid and ready to accept changes at any given time. If you are not willing to go with the flow, then this is probably not for you. Good luck! 

Any questions or comments, feel free to let me know. 

Have a great day everyone!

~ Crystal ~

Revamping Your Goals

There comes a time when you need to revamp your goals or the direction you're headed in. Sometimes that means a makeover or completely throwing out the old to make way for the new. That's currently where I stand..

Over the next week or so I'm going to make some changes to my blogs, so please don't mind the "mess" as I tinker around with them.

Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Top 11 Freelance Writing Job Boards

Trying to find a freelance writing job, but can't seem to figure out where to look? That seems to be the a common frustration among freelance writers when they are trying to get their feet wet and locate clients. Really, the best way to find writing work is by creating a Letter of Introduction and sending it out to potential clients/editors. That requires a lot of work on your part, but it pays off in the end.

Job boards are the next best thing. If you've ever tried to use Monster or Craigslist, then you know they are full of scam and spam. Upwork(formerly Odesk) and Guru feature many low-paying clients—with contractors that will bid much lower to grab the work. You might score a decent paying contract, but it takes a lot of weeding to find one. Some job boards require a fee, but considering what you probably spend on coffee every month, I'm sure you can afford to spend that amount advancing your career. 

So, what are your other options for finding writing jobs that actually pay an acceptable wage?? Well, the following list is comprised of job boards for writers. If you're new or a veteran, these boards are there for everyone.

In no particular order:

1. Problogger - It's updated frequently, almost daily. Like the name, it has a blog with helpful tips for freelancers. 

2. FreelanceWriting Morning Coffee - "Start your day with a fresh cup of freelance writing jobs!" This site is updated daily with lots of jobs, excluding the weekends. You can filter according to job skills and the ad source. You're also given the option of subscribing to receive emails with new job listings. 

3. Ed2010 WhisperJobs - Lots of magazine jobs available on this job board. You can follow their Twitter account to find jobs as they're posted. 

4. Freelance Writer's Den - This is a freelance writer membership site created by Carol Tice. The cost to join is $25 per month. It gives you access to the "Junk-Free Job Board" and lots of tips and access to 100+ hours of recorded past Webinars, teleclasses, and podcasts, which alone is worth more than $100. Currently, they're closed to new members, but you can get on the waiting list to join. 

5. Freelance Writing Gigs - Updated frequently and considered to be one of the better job boards on the web. 

6. ALL Indie Writers - It's not updated as frequently, but lists each job and the rate of pay. 

7. Media Bistro - It's not just for writers, but it's updated regularly. Sign up to be notified by email when a new job is posted.  

8. Journalism Jobs - This job board is an excellent resource for those in journalism. It's updated daily with jobs from all over the country.

9. Writers Weekly - This website has been around since 1997. The link will take you to a list of current openings. You can also subscribe to the email list to receive listings every Wednesday.

10. BloggingPro - Frequently updated. This is a good resource for bloggers. You can find them on Twitter, where they tweet job postings as they are listed.

11. LinkedIn - This is another great resource for finding legitimate writing jobs. 

Finally, even if you apply for the jobs listed on these job boards—that doesn't mean you will land the job. You will still need to create your pitch, have excellent samples available, and make sure to follow the job application instructions. Don't throw in the towel if nothing works out right away. It rarely ever does! The competition is fierce. Make sure to reach out and network. Keep pushing forward. You'll find something eventually. Good luck!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Compromising Your Integrity

Be careful when deciding on taking work that may or may not compromise your integrity.

Here's a story for you:

I started writing for RantPets because I thought it wasn't like "those" websites where they want to generate revenue by pissing people off. Yeah.. "those" websites.. Well, I was wrong.

There weren't that many titles to choose from, even though the quota was specific on how many we could make of our own and how many we had to use from their list of "trending" titles, which I'm not certain their list was entirely true. I utilized Google Trends often and found other topics that were trending at a higher rate. It's just easier to make people angry to generate income.

Enter an article like this one: Annoying Things That Cat Lovers Do, which I wrote—not because I wanted to, but because that was all they had—and which has also been edited somewhat after I stopped writing for the company. Nobody else wanted to write it. It sat there for at least a month or two before I picked it up. Apparently, it's making the rounds on the internet because people hate it so much. However, that was the point. They're making money from your page views. They win, you lose.

I don't like writing things that are ridiculous or downright mean-spirited. It's a personal preference of mine and I kind of wish that I hadn't wrote it. At the same time, I had a quota to try and meet. Now, the vitriol coming from the comments doesn't bother me because I know that was the point of the article—to generate LOTS of page views and harsh criticism from the people reading the article. I just wonder if the people reading it realize that?? If I read something that I don't like or I think the author is an idiot—I move on. Who cares? The more attention you give something, the more it will spread to others, and the more money they make.

Let me also clear something up.. I grew up with a small zoo. Cats, dogs, ferrets, fish, turtles, snakes, birds, chinchillas, hamsters... My goodness!! You name it, we probably had it. So, YES, I am an excellent authority when it comes to animals. Every time I go to my friend's house, she swears that I have this bond with her bird. Someone even commented about my feelings toward kids, since I felt so harshly about cats.. Funny, considering I've had three boys already and I haven't any harsh feelings about cats.

As far as cats are concerned—Almost EVERYTHING in that article has been done by ME and my siblings. Well, except for the attitude toward dog owners and dating part. Besides, I love dogs too. It seriously pained me to write the article, but at the same time.... I laughed because I have done almost all of it—even the old cat lady part. Oh yeah, I HAVE gone there. Deliver my wine, please!!

My parents' cat just had kittens. Who was out there playing and loving on those sweet adorable little creatures?? Even though, she is pretty allergic to them now... ME.. yes, absolutely.. I love that mama cat and those precious babies. Who cares about hives and a runny nose when you can love all over those tiny meow-meows??

My point is that since I wrote that article (and a few others that weren't so positive) it's attached to my name and I can't take it off of the article. It doesn't really bother me like it might someone else. I have pretty thick skin when it comes to people and their nastiness. However, it might bother you. If you aren't prepared for the consequences, then you probably shouldn't do something that might compromise your integrity or make you feel bad after the fact. In my case, it was the backlash from the general public, which I knew would happen. I was fully prepared for it. I guess, I never realized how much attention it would receive. I assumed that it wouldn't garner hardly any attention at all. I was SO SO SO wrong! The only thing that bothers me is that the new editors went back and modified some of my content. I don't like that at ALL. My name is on it. If you're going to go back and change what I wrote—please take my name off of it because it's no longer MINE.

You live and you learn! Take it from me, think long and hard about the possible consequences—positive and negative—before you take on work that might have your name on it. Because basically, as a writer, I am what most would refer to as a "sell-out" for writing articles like the one I listed above. However, money is money! Thankfully, I've only written a handful like that and I haven't any plans to write anymore. Insulting people and their decisions is not really my style.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

~ Crystal ~