Day 8: Billing just got a whole lot easier

As I mentioned in my last post, a lot of the questions I have as I build out this freelance business revolve around, well, the business end of things.

I don’t think that’s unusual or troubling, though, because I’m not in the business of being an accountant – I write because that’s what I know and love to do; if I loved invoices, I’d have taken a much different career path.

All of that being said, today was a great day. Today, I found Wave.

Wave is a free tool for small businesses to help with accounting, invoicing and even personal finances. I sent an invoice out on it today, in fact, and so far, I like what I see.

Wave apps

Wave, you just made my day.

The beauty of the system is that for me, it covers everything I need without having to pay for features I’ll likely never use. With Wave,  I can send invoices, track outstanding payments and manage my accounting from within the same system.

And did I mention my favorite part, that it’s free to use?

To quote their site, “When we say free, we actually mean free: You don’t pay a thing for our free tools, no matter how much you use them. Not just a free trial. We mean simple, honest-to-goodness free.”

Remember that honesty and integrity I talked about when it comes to billing? Makes perfect sense for that to carry through to the software you use in your business as well.

Well done, Wave folks. You just won yourself an advocate.

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Day 7: Writers, the original humble braggers?

Writers like to tell stories. We create characters that act out lives that are often not different than our own. We use our words in ways that many people simply can’t, crafting a tale that evokes emotion, sparks creativity or fascinates the imagination of a child.

In my case, I tell business stories that convince you to buy, act, or believe – but that’s besides the point.

The point is, a large percentage of us are completely content being ghostwriters, meaning we get no public credit for the work we do. We’re happy being behind the scenes, hidden behind pen names or shielded by a corporate byline.

So what happens when we step out? What happens when we decide to take on the business end of writing and take on clients as freelancers?

We sell ourselves short, that’s what.

Let’s backtrack, here. As I mentioned in my first 100-day challenge post, I’m going to be chronicling my foray into freelance copywriting and editing. While I’ve been writing for years, taking the reins and creating a business of my own has been daunting.

One area of constant struggle for me, and apparently for most writers, comes in setting up our fee structure. I’m always wondering whether my prices are fair, in line with the industry and commensurate with the level of quality I provide.

I got a bit of a reality check today while catching up on some blog reading. In a very pointed and interesting post, Dean Rieck calls us out:

I know that many writers aren’t great with numbers or comfortable talking about money. Maybe it’s because the world has beaten you down until you think you aren’t worth more than a French Fry Jockey.

But whatever it is, we need to get this straightened out, because if I ever meet you and learn that you’re working for next to nothing, I’ll have to kick your ass. Because you’re not only robbing yourself, you’re making things difficult for every other writer out there who wants to make a good living.

I won’t continue too far into his post, but reading it makes me realize that unfortunately, he’s exactly right. Writing and editing come naturally to me, sure; that doesn’t mean I should pretend it isn’t hard work. When people follow what they’re passionate about, its supposed to come naturally – that shouldn’t lessen its value.

I think this post, and many more like it, are a much needed wake up call to copywriters. If you’re not charging what your work is worth, you’re hurting not only yourself, but others in the industry.

So where do I stand?

I’m a firm believer in project costs as a benefit to both the client and the copywriter. I’m also a believer in honesty and integrity, and when I quote you a price, I’ll stick to it.

As writers, it’s our responsibility to provide high-value content and to communicate that value to our clients.

It’s time we all stop humble bragging and just get back to work.

Day 6: Case of the Mondays

Oof. We found it, friends: the first Monday of the 100-day Challenge.

Mondays are especially hard for me, as we have a team creative meeting after the workday more or less ends, starting at 5:00 and running until 6:00 or 6:30.

Yes. Someone on our team thought the creative juices would be flowing at 5:00 p.m. on Monday. I’ll give you a hint: no, it wasn’t me.

So after working a roughly 8-to-5 workday, I finally left the office a little after 6:30. Luckily for me, I saw an email from a freelance client as I was walking out the door.

I say a freelance client like I have many. So far it’s just the one. But she’s awesome, so that helps.

And while I didn’t have the energy to cook or do the dishes – thank goodness for a helpful husband – I definitely had the energy to help her with a little proofreading.

That got me thinking. I say often I’m a better writer than an editor, that I genuinely enjoy proofreading. And while that second part is certainly true, I wonder if it’s not so much that I’m not a good writer, but that by the time I make time to write, I’m exhausted and my brain is shot.

Regardless, there’s something infinitely satisfying and soothing about proofreading. It’s simple even at its most complex; it’s straightforward, direct, obvious in many ways to someone like me who knows what she’s looking for. I assume its like how people who are good at math (I hear those people exist) are able to look at a problem and where others see chaos, find calm in knowing there’s a right and a wrong way to proceed.

I read somewhere that once you learn to edit, you’ll never again be able to read without errors jumping at you from the page.

And even at the end of a very long Monday, it’s fun to watch those errors jump.

Beautiful sky

Day 5: Sunny Sunday Fun day

I know people usually only talk about the weather when there’s nothing else to say, but today, the weather was worthy subject matter all it’s own.

Beautiful sky

Gorgeous, right?

 

Today, the weather was beyond belief. It’s July in the Midwest, which usually renders more than 5 minutes outside an impossibility, and yet I write this post from my deck, after cooking dinner outside and even – yes – building a fire. After a week of monsoon conditions followed by a week of draught,  this week mother nature decided to grace us with weather usually reserved for football Sundays in October.

It’s been downright magical, and the dogs have been soaking in every minute.

Lambeau

This level of stillness never happens

 

Can we take a second to appreciate the fact that Lambeau actually stood still long enough to capture that shot? Lambeau, our 2.5 year old beagle/fox hound (we’re guessing?) mix never sits still for long, and this may be the only clear photo I have of him.

Cooper, Lambeau’s older and wiser brother, is just over 5. According to Cooper, there’s only one word to describe a day like today:

Cooper

Delicious.

I completely agree, Cooper. Today was a perfect way to wrap up the weekend, and I’ll admit I’m not quite ready for it to be over.

Oh well … Monday’s just another day, I suppose.

Day 4: I can, therefore I am

Over the past few years, Darrell and I have developed a growing concern about what we eat, where it comes from and what happens between the time something’s picked to when it shows up on our plates. Let’s just say when people decided ignorance is bliss, they were probably thinking of the food industry.

The more we read, the more we question; the more we question, the less we like the answers. We’ve signed up for the second year to participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where we receive organic produce from a local farm on a weekly basis, so we know where our vegetables come from and how they’re grown.

The only problem, of course, is that for two people, we sometimes receive more than we can consume before it goes bad. So earlier this week, I sent my mom a simple, though random, request: Can you teach me how to can? 

She agreed to show me the ropes today, so after an awesome breakfast at home, I headed out to the Covington Ranch.

Every summer for as long as I can remember, my mom has been canning the vegetables she gathers from her garden for use year round. Many of my summer mornings were spent cutting green beans, shucking corn or picking tomatoes; many summer afternoons were spent perched on the kitchen counter while mom pulled boiling hot canning jars from her pressure cooker.

It was such a common scene around our house that it became one of those things you just assume everyone does. Doesn’t everyone eat dinner together as a family? Doesn’t everyone eat vegetables from a garden? Doesn’t everyone have to spend hours picking said vegetables from said garden? I was, admittedly, much less enthusiastic about the picking than the eating, but I digress.

Recipe card

And this is one of the good-condition ones.

As an adult, I realize the garden we had growing up was significantly larger than the average person’s entire yard (this became blatantly obvious the first time my now husband referred to it as a farm). I realize that there are a lot of people for whom a family recipe is more likely read from the wax-coated back panel of a Kraft box than from a handwritten note card.

I’m lucky. I have a strong family rich with great cooks. I asked my mom today when she learned to can, and she answered it was around the time we moved into the house where they still live today, when I was two years old. My dad’s mother, a strong-willed, devoutly religious woman who I’ll always remember as the maker of the worlds best mashed potatoes (and pretty much everything else) taught her. That was 25 years ago, and she’s been doing it the same way ever since.

But today, as we were canning, my maternal grandmother stopped by to say hello. Immediately, because of the purpose of today as a lesson, the two of them began discussing their own tricks. Some of what my grandmother had to say confirmed what my mom had learned from my paternal grandmother, some of it conflicted, but all of it was shared in a comfortable and casual discussion about this singularly unifying practice of preparing food for storage.

It’s a grace and flexibility I admire in my mom. She always seems to know what matters and what doesn’t, never letting a small conflict ruffle her feathers. We continued on with the day, spending time outside to check the garden, feed the fish in the pond and even managed to add a few jars of pickled peppers to the day’s accomplishments. When it was finally time to head home, the canning jars were still too hot to take with me … a perfect reason to come back and do it all again next week.

A few hours later, I received a brief but validating text message from my mom:

All of the jars sealed! Good job!

It’s 2013 and we can text each other congratulations for a job well done, even if that job was a more than 100-year-old tradition.

It’s funny. Something I never really thought much about as a child I realize now I was lucky to experience. I had healthful meals, painstakingly prepared by a mother who really did know best. You never have to wonder where your food comes from when you plant it, pick it and prepare it yourself, and I’m glad to say I’ll be able to do the same for my children.

They say you grow into your mother … I suppose in this sense, I’m glad they’re right.

Day 3: Happy Friday

Happy Friday! 

Two simple words to you, maybe, but there’s something you should know. 

When I was at Ball State, Friday was more than just the last day of classes. Friday had it’s own special magic to it, and I don’t mean the remnants of Thursday night’s haze. 

Happy Friday Guy

Yes, this was voluntary.

Friday had a secret password. Friday had an anthem. And Friday… had a mascot. 

You see, at Ball State, we had: Happy Friday Guy

Who is Happy Friday Guy?

Happy Friday Guy (a.k.a. Scooter Bob) is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, served on a razor scooter through campus every Friday at noon. As he raced through campus in blue tights and a red cape, he handed out hugs, high fives and sometimes even candy to everyone in sight, proclaiming “Happy Friday!” to anyone within earshot of his belting voice. 

He was an icon. A legend. And he showed in all weather to remind us all to have a very special, very happy day. 

But that’s not fair, we didn’t have a Happy anything guy!

Fear not, my fine friends. I’m happy to share with you the magic of Happy Friday Guy, embedded neatly in the video below. 

Because even though Fridays are always happy, it never hurts to have a reminder. 

Happy Friday, everyone. 

100-day challenge: Second day, first obstacle

Like I said when I kicked this thing off yesterday: I have a hard time keeping up habits.

I’m not letting the late hour fail me, though; I’m still here typing even if it’s a short post with no inspirational or motivational tone.

Basically – my night was dominated by a needy 21-month-old boy.

Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s my lack of parenting prowess, but holy moly do those little fellas need a lot of attention! I’m pretty sure when I looked away for a second he ran around with my butcher knife.

Alright, slight exaggeration. But seriously, that child was out to hurt himself and was just waiting for me not to look.

Who am I talking about you ask? Meet: Lincoln. My adorable, insufferable, un-tire-able, nephew.

Lincoln

Sure he *seems* innocent…

What? Doesn’t look needy to you?

What you can’t see in this picture is the Mickey Mouse Road Trip playing on my television. For the fifth time. In 2.5 hours.

What can I say? The kid knows how to get what he wants.

Either way, I still managed to hop on and type even if I’m doing it from my pillow.

Goodnight, and better writing days tomorrow.