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Freelancers and the Importance of Socializing

Socializing with “normal” friends can help ebb eccentric tendencies and keep you from alienating your clients.

I own that outfit in real life

A completely accurate portrayal of what I look like when left up to my own devices

 The Anti-Social Freelancer

Most freelancers, especially freelance writers, work from home.  They pick their own clients and plan their own schedules.  Unfortunately, many of us forget to schedule a little “free time” into our dayplanners, leaving us anti-social and isolated.  (Or, if you’re like I am, being alone for long lengths of time can lead you to start humoring your more eccentric personality traits).

The Problem with Isolation

Isolation might not bother you.  In fact, many of us enjoy being alone on our days off.  However, the problem with complete and total reclusiveness from your fellow humans is this: Your detachment will start to affect your work.

Think of it this way:

  1. Your clients are probably humans/people.
  2. If you have no contact with humans/people other than yourself, you probably can’t relate to humans/people (or at least can’t in a way that’s considered “normal”)
  3. If you can’t relate to humans/people, you can’t relate to your clients.
  4. If you can’t relate to your clients, they won’t hire/pay you!

Oh noes!!

Keeping in Touch: What Can Help

I’m not saying that you have to start partying or even that you have to go out and physically see your friends every week.  There are lots of ways to stay “in touch” with the human race…

  • E-mail.  Making an effort to e-mail a friend (or friends) each week—particularly one who’s on the “outside”—can help to keep you feeling “connected.”
  • Phone.  Same thing as e-mail, but with more talk-y and less write-y.
  • Watch TV.  No, they aren’t “real” people (I’m not telling you to start thinking of Quinn Fabray as your girlfriend and Barney Stinson as your best friend), but real people are watching these shows: By watching—or at least knowing about—what’s on television, you start to absorb the lexicon (most of humanity’s common “slang” originates from the media) and get to know what people are talking about around the proverbial water cooler.
  • Know the News.  One of the first “tip offs” that you’re “out of touch” is when you don’t know the news.  For instance, if I had made a comment like “If we ever catch Osama Bin Laden…” after the events of May 1, 2011, I’d certainly get more than a few funny looks.
  • Get Out of the House.  People are EVERYWHERE.  No matter where you go, you’re bound to run into someone.  Even a simple “How are you today?” exchange with the bag clerk at the grocery store can give you some much-needed human contact.
  • Hang Out with Friends!  Hey, sometimes the classics just can’t be beat!
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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Planning Your Days by Using a Day Planner

Even if you have a fantastic memory, you might get confused if you’re juggling too many balls at once.  I know I do!  And there’s nothing quite like that chill of terror that comes with suddenly waking up at 3am and saying “I forgot to do ___________!”  That’s why I’ve taken to writing down my day-to-day tasks in a day planner.  It works for me and it may work for you as well!

If you go against the planner, the planner means nothing!

I'm the first to admit that I can sometimes be hard to live with...

A Glimpse at my Private Life: A Day in the Planner

All right, all right…  I’m not exactly the most private person there is.  Many of you have come here from my Personal Blog (which updates every Monday with a blow-by-blow of my personal life); however, no one but my guy and me has seen the inner workings of my day planner.  Not so anymore!  Here is a peek at a page out of one of my most precious work tools:

How I spend my time

Mmmm...steak...

That’s actually only a small section of one of my planner’s pages (my planner is 10×8″).  And that first entry had a lot more tasks than what’s shown there!  Looking at my planner, you probably noticed a few things:

  1. I write down menial tasks as well as “important” ones – I have two reasons for this.  One reason is that I sometimes get so busy, I sometimes forget to do simple things.  The other reason is explained in the section below (“given” tasks).
  2. The entries are highlighted – They didn’t start out that way!  I only highlight the tasks that I complete successfully.
  3. My planner has advice on it – that particular week it was “Compromising your principles is never a good choice” (which is absolutely true!).  On that same page it also has encouragement (“Think win-win!”) and a fun fact (“There are twice as many chickens as humans in the world”).  And it also has a slot to write down what book you’re reading that week!  I try to read two books per week.  That particular week, I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (gotta refresh my memory for the last movie!) and The Bedwetter: Tales of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman (if you liked her show, you’ll love her book!).  Anyway, the point is: my planner suits me perfectlyFind a planner that suits your personality and not only will you use it, you will love using it.

My Patented Tips for Day Planner Success

Everyone has their own way of doing things.  As you get used to having a day planner, you’ll probably come up with your own methods for using it efficiently; however, here are a few things that I do that may help to get you off on the right foot:

  • Choose the right planner for you – I suggest one without too many bells & whistles.  For instance, I’ve seen planners with Velcro tabs and/or zippers…  Personally, I wouldn’t use one of these.  If your planner isn’t easy to access, you probably won’t use it very often.
  • Write down a few “given” tasks.  I always write down a few super easy tasks that I know I’m going to complete successfully that day.  Like cooking dinner or scooping out the cat litter box.  It’s a “given” that I’m going to do these things, but having them written down in my planner gives me a.) something easy to do when the rest of my tasks are “too hard” or unappealing and, b.) gives me that same sense of getting-things-done satisfaction when I cross it off my list as successfully completed.  For me, if my planner were composed of nothing but super hard or un-fun tasks, I would feel defeated before the day even started!  Having a few “given” tasks can be a great way to “warm up” to the bigger, more important, stuff.
  • Remind yourself of due dates ahead of time!  If you have something important due, don’t just mark it down on the date it’s due (though you should do that too), give yourself a reminder in advance.  You don’t want to turn the page in your planner and get a nasty surprise!
  • Write it down as soon as you think of it.  Or at least try to!  Your planner can’t help you to not forget if you forget to use your planner!
  • Leave some space for fun.  “All work and no play…”  Well, you know the rest.  Make time for yourself!
 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Drowning In E-mails?

How many e-mails do you have in your inbox right now?  Chances are you said a number higher than “zero.”  Probably much higher.  So what can you do to deal with an ocean of e-mails?  Read my tips below!

Drowning in E-mails!

If my e-mails were snail mail, this is what my "inbox" would look like

Make a Date with Your Inbox

There are two types of e-mails that I respond to immediately:

  1. E-mails from work/a client
  2. E-mails from my mom (What can I say? She worries if I don’t write back).

Everyone else can wait ‘til Friday.

That’s right, every Friday I have a standing date with my e-mail inbox.  I take her out to dinner, we have a nice chat, and then I go through and reply to all the e-mails that have stacked up throughout the week.  (One-third of that last sentence was true).

Why this system works:

  • Your clients/work will always get swift replies.  That’s just good business!
  • It increases productivity during the week.  Instead of spending your hours replying to all your e-mails, you’ll be spending your hours actually working on stuff!
  • You won’t go into “e-mail overload.”  Trying to reply to/please everyone at once can make you feel overloaded.  Which can lead to procrastination…  Which could mean that those e-mails never get a reply!
  • It’s kinda nice to save all your “friend” e-mails for the end of the week.  After spending the bulk of the week dealing with business e-mails, it can be sort of a special treat to finally sit down and see what your buds have to say.

Remember: If it were an emergency, your friend would call you—e-mails can wait.

3 More Tips For an Empty Inbox

  1. Delete, Delete, Delete!  Use your delete button.  You know which e-mails don’t even need to be bothered with.  Get rid of them!  (Or unsubscribe!)
  2. Know when to stop replying.  Have you ever had an e-mail come back that just says “That would be fine” and you say “okay” and then the other person says “okay?”  You don’t have to write back to everything.  Recognize the end of the conversation when it comes along.  (This bothers me with text messages too.  I hate it when I say something and I get “k” as a reply).  Not only does this waste your time, but it’s likely to annoy the other person as well!
  3. Use the phone.  I’m not a fan of the phone (I prefer writing), but my bosses at my new job swear by it!  And, I gotta admit, some situations are easier to clear up with a quick phone call then a long string of e-mails…  And it saves space in your inbox!
 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Let’s Talk About Procrastination

Well, I’ve put this article off long enough.  It’s time to talk about procrastination!

Procrastination

Everyone has their "Devil" on one shoulder and "Angel" on the other when it comes to getting work done...

What is Procrastination?

Oh, come on.  You know what procrastination is.  It’s the exact opposite of “never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.”  Procrastination is putting things off.  Way off.  We all do it!  (And that’s not just me being presumptuous; there have actually been studies on this).

My Name is Lauren and I’m a Procrastinator

I was recently made aware of a Procrastination Survey.  I took it.  I scored a 69 out of 100 which meant that I “rank in the top 10%-25% of the population in terms of your level of procrastination.”  Yikes!  And, to be honest, taking the survey was a form of procrastination itself—since I was supposed to be working on something else at the time.

But if I’m such a horrible procrastinator, how do I ever get anything done?

How I Get Things Done:

  • Stop lying to yourself.  When you say “I’ll feel more like doing it later” will you really feel more like doing it later?  Probably not.  So why not do it now?  And don’t tell me “I work best under pressure!”  Believe me, I’ve used that excuse before too.
  • Take baby steps.  You don’t have to do your project all at once!  Break the task down into smaller segments.
  • Be organized.  I like to use a dayplanner.  You can use a notebook, a calendar, Post-It notes, an organizational computer program, or whatever else it takes: Just make sure you make a plan—or at least a sketchy outline of a “plan”—and try your best to stick to it!
  • Be neat.  I’m talking about your work area.  If your desk is so messy that you can’t find the project you were working on—how do you expect yourself to actually get it done?
  • Don’t take on too much.  Often, the reason people procrastinate is because they don’t know their own limits.  If you take on too many tasks at once, you’re bound to put at least a few of them off.
  • Set deadlines.  Even if your project doesn’t have a strict deadline, set one for it!
  • Treat yourself!  When your cat or dog does something extra good, you give them a treat, right?  Do the same for yourself when you complete an especially difficult task!
 
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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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I VS. Me: A Pet Peeve

I’m not a “Grammar Nazi” per say, but I do have a pet peeve I’d like to discuss…

In grade school most of us were taught a couple of simple tricks to help us remember how to talk about ourselves and our friends:

  1. Always put your friend first
  2. To figure out if you’re to say “I” or “me,” simply remove your friend from the sentence and see which version still makes sense

Example:

Ramiro and I went to the store.

Ramiro and me went to the store.

Which is the right choice?

After removing my friend (Ramiro) from the sentence, the choice becomes clear:

I went to the store. (Correct)

Me went to the store. (Wrong)

Final Answer: Ramiro and I went to the store.

Pretty easy, right?

However, I’ve found that many people toss this rule aside when labeling their photographs!  It still applies!

Let me show you what I mean.  Here is a picture of my friend Paris and me:

Paris and me
Paris and me

Why do I say “Paris and me” and not “Paris and I?”  Simple.  Use the rule: Remove your friend.

Just Me

Me

Here is a picture of I. (Wrong)

Here is a picture of me.  (Correct)

Add your friend back in and you get:  “Here is a picture of Paris and me.”

Paris and me: Part Deux
Paris and Me: Part Deux

I hope this has been helpful and that you remember it the next time you’re labeling your pictures!  Or that you pass this article along to that one friend who’s always driving you crazy by mislabeling his/her photos!  (We all have at least one).

–Lauren*

PS: You could, of course, opt to use both of your real names, bypassing the “I VS. Me” problem entirely!  Just remember to put your friend first!  (Unless it’s a group photo in which case you’ll probably need to do the ol’ “From left to right…”)

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Who I Am and Why You Should Care

Hello, Everyone!

Welcome to my new Blog!  I’m intending this to be my “Professional” Blog.  And it’s going to update every Wednesday!  (My personal Blog is still up-and-running as well and will continue to update Mondays as usual).

But who am I?

My name is Lauren R. Tharp.  I’m a freelance writer for hire!  But before that I was…

Me at Children's Hospital

Me at Childrens Hospital

A baby!

I was born with a terrible defect in my hip.  I was handicapped.  Thanks to the miracle-workers at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, that’s not the case anymore.

Then I…

Feeling the power of Zotz coin...

Forrest J. Ackerman gave me his Zotz! coin

…got a magic coin!  ZOTZ!

After that a large chunk of time went by and I did a bunch of things…

Me in high school

The outfit (and expression) I wore throughout high school

…like going to high school…

5 Kata

Doing a Kata for a demonstration

…and earning a black belt and teaching martial arts classes to children…

Gallery at the End of the World

Some of my paintings...

…and getting my artwork up in a gallery (3 times!)…

Sold to raise money for Children's Hospital

Fan Art of my favourite comics

…and selling a piece of fan art I did (for charity)…

EPIC!

Still one of my faves, years later...

…I had my own webcomic and I got hired to illustrate a children’s book

Three Cats--count 'em!--Three!

Clockwise: Ziggy (white), Ringo (orange), and Robert (black)

…and I fell in love with cats (seriously, if you check out my personal Blog, you’ll read a LOT about my cats).

And at this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, this is all very well and good, but what does this have to do with writing?”  Good question.

My History with Writing

I’ve always loved to write.  I wrote my first “book” in 1st grade.  It was an IlluStory book about a horse that was afraid to jump—which I aptly named The Horse That Was Afraid to Jump.

In 8th grade, I spent most of my free time working on a lovely piece of sci-fi that ended up being 109 pages long.

In high school, I got several awards for my writing including a Golden State Award in Written Composition; and I was also declared the best in my year for 11th grade English.  In addition to that, my short stories were nominated “Story of the Month” three separate times in the now defunct Teen magazine.  I was also the head writer for my high school’s newspaper, the Clark Chronicle.

Straight out of high school, I wrote two original screenplays (The Answer is Always Bea and A Little Respect).  I also won the Editor’s Choice award from the International Library of Poetry for my poem “Another Degree of Nine” in 2004.

In 2006, I wrote several articles for The Pulse, a magazine that specializes in reporting on events happening at Comic Con.

Reporting for The Pulse

A Serious Reporter (Yes, thats me).

When I Got Serious About Writing

I had always dabbled in writing—short stories, poems, and articles mostly—but I had never considered doing it seriously until fairly recently.  Sure, I had been hired to “proofread” (i.e. write) some essays for fellow pupils when I was in high school, but that was pretty much the extent of my paid work.

However, in August of 2010, I decided to take the plunge.  And now here I am: A professional freelance writer!

I started out getting jobs from the usual places:

I spent my time writing articles, press releases, haikus, and short stories.  I also did some proofreading and copy-editing.

But then, in October of 2010, I got hired to work on this television show:

Champions of Champions Elite

"The Best of Muay Thai!"

I became the “Official Blogger” for Champions of Champions Elite.  (If you click that link, it will take you to my work).  I was also put in charge of their Official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

After my stint working for COC-Elite, I ended up doing more in the Combat Sports line of work.  I put my journalism skills to the test and interviewed Muay Thai fighters such as:

ROXY “BALBOA” RICHARDSON

Roxy Balboa Richardson

Roxy and me

and

GORAN KARAMFILOSKI

GORAN KARAMFILOSKI

Goran doing an amazing kick

But I was soon picked up to do weekly articles/contributions for WP PRO BUSINESS.

WP Pro Business

wpPro Business

As it says on the website, “WP Pro Business is the creation of Adam W. Warner in partnership with a select team of professional WordPress power users.”  You should check it out.  My contributions can be found HERE.

In my spare time, I still accept orders from clients (maybe you?), work on my poetry and fiction, and create Squidoo lenses for fun!

CONTACT ME

I can be contacted for a free consultation for your project, or just to say “hi,” at littlezotz (at) gmail (dot) com.

For more about me personally, feel free to visit my Personal Blog.

For more about anything else, please visit my Official Webpage.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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