Freelance Feast on hiatus

Shortly after I started the Freelance Feast blog, I entered a time of intensive parenting and family readjustment. I gamely kept up the blog, but then necessarily turned to other priorities.

Things are settling down at home, but for now I am focusing on other elements of my professional revitalization.

In the meantime, I invite you to enjoy the best of Freelance Feast:

Wanna work in your PJs? Then be good

Constant, steady, occasional: Diversification and your bottom line

Purposeful porpoising: Working smart when you gotta work hard

"Your most important asset is your ability to earn": Private disability insurance for freelancers

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Perpetual parenting and professional motion: Blogging decisions for busy people

 

In February, I scored a Twitter win. I commented on a blog post, added value to a retweet, and caught the eye of some folks who publish very smart stuff on blogging for business. They invited me to guest blog.

The topic: It really is OK to farm out blogging and social media work to a freelancer.

I still haven't written that post. I told them I couldn't carve out the time until March, but then March swept past me and was gone before I knew it.

Frustrated that I hadn't found the time to make good on my frequent Twitter wins, I watched as family obligations and a new round of work inhaled the first week of April.

Then I realized that I was experiencing the Number 1 reason many successful organizations should farm out blogging and social media:

When the going gets tough, the tough meet deadlines

Here's my big problem. I am single parenting two wonderful young women. One of my daughters has a disability. She is at a crucial stage in her life when I must devote enormous amounts of time and emotional energy to her treatment and oh-so-soon transition to adulthood. This is no time for lollygagging.

Meantime, I am the owner of Amberley Communications, the one-woman show that funds our household. To keep this operation going, I must have a steady flow of work coming in, going out, and being invoiced.

Given the choice between devoting time to my daughter's treatment, meeting the latest deadline, and cranking out clever blog posts that make a case for the services I'm offering, what do you think I do?

You guessed it. I keep my commitments. I parent well, and I do excellent work for my clients and get it in on time.

Who has time for blogging and social media?

What's happening in my family life happens in organizations all the time: leaders and staff are swept up in the perpetual motion of daily demands, the endless cycle of caring well for customers and clients and keeping professional relationships strong. Who has time for blogging and social media?

If you believe that blogging and social media are good for your business, if you know that they are a great way to demonstrate your expertise in your field, build your brand, and cultivate your business network, then you should assign them to someone who can devote time to doing them well.

That person might be someone in your organization whose schedule isn't already loaded with 40 hours of existing responsibilities—perhaps an intern who won't be around for long.

Or it might be someone outside your organization whom you pay to devote a certain amount of time each month solely to managing your blog and social media. An outside contractor might be juggling other demands just like your staff is, but successful freelancers don't stay in business by letting such demands crowd out their commitments to their clients.

Of course, you wouldn't hire someone to clean your house who would rearrange your furniture and leave the cleaning half done. And if you contract out blogging and social media, you'll find a freelancer who's great at what they do and who will respect the voice and mission of your organization. Choose the right person and your online house will look great no matter how much scrambling is going on behind the scenes.

As for me and my house

I began freelancing so I could be a present parent to my children. Now more than ever they need me. So I am resigned to remaining in a holding pattern professionally until I get through this transition. Marketing and business development need to take third place for now, after parenting well and meeting existing professional commitments.

If in spite this retrenchment I happen to land projects that are more creative, collaborative, and missional than much of what I'm doing now, those projects will join the parade of usual deadlines and commitments, and my new clients will benefit from my unflagging commitment to excellence.

Now, back to my billable work.

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Decrease your bottom line: A roadmap for freelance fitness


Did you know that freelancers are especially prone to depression and back problems? That's something I learned from financial adviser Amy Keller of Della Monica and Associates when I interviewed her about disability insurance last year. It’s not surprising, considering all the time many of us spend alone in front of a computer screen. Weight gain is also a problem for many of us.

So I've decided to launch a new category: Fitness and freelancing. For the first installment I knew I had to line up longtime friend and colleague—and now marathon runner—Amy Schneider of Featherschneider Editorial Services. Amy regularly inspires our little band of colleagues on the Freelance Writers and Editors Google group with her tales from the road.

Thanks, Amy, and welcome to the Feast!


The more time we freelancers spend in our office chairs, the more we increase our bottom line—financial and physical! That was certainly true for me—until I committed to improving my health. I joined a weight-loss program, took up running, and lost 75 pounds. Yay me! Here are some tips I learned on my journey to freelance fitness.

Two must-dos and a really oughta

Change your diet. The key is not temporary diets but long-term, permanent changes in your habits. Portion control is important; so is making substitutions you can live with (such as skim milk for 2 percent, or veggie thin-crust pizza instead of deep-dish meat-lover’s). If you work at home, you have a kitchen at your disposal and don’t need to rely on vending machines, fast food, or remembering to pack a lunch, so build on that advantage. Weight Watchers worked for me; I committed to attending meetings even when deadlines loomed. If meetings aren’t doable for you, try a free online resource such as SparkPeople, Lose It!, or MyFitnessPal.

Exercise. “But I have deadlines!” Hey, if you have time for Facebook, you have time for exercise. What better way to clear your head between work sessions than to go out for a bike ride, put in a workout DVD, or hop on the elliptical? Best part for freelancers: You can hit the gym when it’s less busy or do your outdoor workout when the weather is most comfortable.

Be a joiner. Social isolation is the freelancer’s bane. So get out there! Join a running club, as I did, or register for a 5K run/walk. Take a class. Join a gym. You’ll meet energetic people who share your new interest and will keep you motivated. And you never know which of your workout buddies might need help with her thesis or the company newsletter.

Yeah, but . . .

How do I get started? One step at a time. You might start with brisk walks, or the first in a series of workout DVDs, or a beginner fitness class. You can add intensity and time as your stamina and ability improve. The important thing is to choose an activity that you will enjoy.

How do I maintain a fitness schedule? The same way you maintain a work schedule! If you take a class, the scheduling is done for you. If you’re exercising on your own, put your workouts on your calendar. Keep a fitness log to note your progress. Most important: Remember that you are doing this for YOU. Don’t let other commitments get in the way of your new healthy lifestyle.

How can I work out in short amounts of time or in a small space? The rule of thumb is 30 minutes a day, but you can do three 10-minute sessions if that fits your schedule better. In 10 minutes you can go for a quick walk, do a routine with a workout video, or get out the hand weights for a few reps. Many home fitness machines are designed to fit in small spaces or fold up when not in use. How about a mini trampoline?

How do I keep from getting bored? Mix it up! Cross-training is good for your body and keeps things interesting. Try swimming, dancing, cross-country skiing, biking. Many activities can be shared with friends and family during leisure time. I need silence when I’m editing, so I love to rock out to music while I exercise. Some bookworms might enjoy audiobooks instead.

I’ve read that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!


Amy J. Schneider has been a full-time freelance copy editor and proofreader of textbooks, trade books, and fiction since 1995.

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Submarketing: Bringing in business when you're not trying to

 

If you've noticed my recent blogging silence, and if you know what I've written about purposeful porpoising, you may have guessed correctly that I've been underwater again.

Freelancing while solo parenting doesn't always leave time for business development. If you've tried to do both, you know that I mean. But if you play your cards right, you can have a steady flow of work even with minimal marketing.

Call it submarketing.

Good work means repeat business

Somehow I've managed to accumulate five active projects with which to start the new year. One of them is an ongoing gig for a magazine that's always in the mix. Another is a late-arriving project from a regular client that I thought I would see in November.

Two more, with generous schedules, are from that same client. I already had a full slate and it wasn't looking like I could squeeze them in. But in one case, the author had requested me specifically after hearing a colleague praise my index for her book, so the client extended the deadline so I could take the project. In the other, I'm not really sure why the client offered such a generous schedule. I think it's because I was finally offering to edit again for them because I needed a break from indexing, which is more lucrative. I knew they'd missed having me on board as an editor.

The common thread in all of these is strong relationships with clients over the long term, and good work that prompts authors to recommend me to one another. None of these take extra marketing time. The quality of my performance is its own marketing strategy.

Tiny marketing efforts can yield big results

The fifth project in my inbox, which looked like it was going to be small but seems to be morphing into something big, came from a tiny-turned-large marketing effort.

In 2011 and early 2012, I was on the editorial team for a series of books being produced by a large environmental nonprofit. As that project drew to a close, I told the project team that I'd be very happy to receive referrals for similar work, and I requested their permission to approach the authors I'd worked with to drum up referrals. With much of my time consumed by urgent family needs, I didn't get as far in the latter effort as I wanted to. But the folks at the nonprofit remembered what I'd done for them.

When I was traveling for Thanksgiving, I got an unexpected phone call. The caller, referred by someone at the environmental nonprofit, needed developmental editing assistance stat. The project seemed small, so I explained my scheduling challenges, and we agreed that I'd do what I could in the time we had. That project appears to be morphing into something larger, and it will create a connection to a potential new client, the large philanthropic foundation that is publishing the book.

The moral of this part of the story: make it part of your routine to tell satisfied clients that you would be happy to receive referrals. It only takes a moment, and over time multiple referral strings can be woven into a nice safety net of work.

Submarketing is not enough

These projects will carry me well into February, and more are sure to follow, as they always do. It would be easy to conclude that I don't need to market more intentionally. Easy, but dead wrong. As grateful as I am to have three projects from a single client, it's not wise to put too many eggs in one basket. And I need to continue my efforts to bring in more creative, collaborative, and missional work that is lucrative enough to permit regular trips to the surface.

So what I'm doing in 2013 is changing my personal productivity rules (You have those don't you? How much you need to make; how many hours you need to work?) so I can incentivize professional development and marketing. Because I figure the only way I can break the porpoising habit is to give myself treats for coming up for air.

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An SEO strategy for a place where I won't be working

 

Last week, with great disappointment, I withdrew myself from consideration for a social media copywriting position for a large nonprofit organization. Before that happened, I'd been scheduled for a second interview in which the supervisor wanted to talk about SEO (search engine optimization). I didn't know whether she would be most interested in my mastery of technological tools or in my overall thinking about SEO. But once the appointment was set, my wheels started turning.

What are the agency's goals for the SEO effort, I asked myself, and what strategies will best achieve those goals? If I were presented the open-ended question "What will you do so people will find us online?" how would I respond?

Below is my hypothetical response. By the way, the potential employer was an organization that serves people with disabilities and their families. I'll call it The Agency.


I understand that as state budgets tighten and foundation dollars are harder to come by, The Agency needs to attract more fee-for-service clients whose payments will help fill the gap. The families of these potential clients may be the most important social media target audience: if they're going to come to The Agency for services, it will be because they've heard that The Agency can help. It's all about word of mouth. The good news is, word of mouth is what social media engagement is all about.

Tackle the branding challenge

I've known about The Agency for years. Through the grapevine I'd learned that it serves children with cognitive disabilities. But it would never have come to mind if I needed services for a family member with any other sort of disability. The Agency's name would not have tipped me off, and when I search for such services online, The Agency does not pop up in search results.

If The Agency is going to appear in the search results of potential clients and their families, we need to know what they are looking for most and how they ask for it. Keyword tools can help, but they're not the place to start in the strategy I'm thinking of. Selecting keywords is like grabbing the right bat as you step into the on-deck circle. First you need to know where the ball game is being played.

This is where listening comes in. Here's an example. The Agency has a program that helps adolescents with disabilities transition to adulthood. Who answers the phones in that department? Let's ask her to keep track of what callers ask for, and to take down as best she can the words they use when they ask. We're going to find out what callers need to know most, and we're going to be able to answer their questions in terms that they would use themselves.

This strategy will help us decide what to blog about (we'll be in the right ballpark), and it will point us in the right direction for keyword phrases (we'll use the best bat). If there's a way to connect place names with questions people are asking, this gives us extra keyword punch: hypothetically, "Parents in Logan Square are worried about transitional services for their teenagers after a city mental health clinic in the neighborhood closed." By the way, that's another strong SEO tactic: blogging about issues in the news, especially if they directly affect consumers of your services.

Deliver desperately needed answers

I have a child who has a disability, and let me tell you, it is very difficult to find information online when I need to evaluate options or determine next steps to take. If a local organization's blog can describe various options to me and give me a good sense of their advantages and disadvantages, or if it can outline the steps toward a particular goal, the organization will have won my confidence. When my family needs services, I'll know exactly where to start.

For each person who talks to the receptionist in The Agency's transitions program, probably hundreds more are—like me—looking for answers online. Blog content with solid answers, explained in the callers' own terms, are going to rise in search results on the strength of their relevance. You will get found when your content is what people are looking for.

Cultivate brand ambassadors and build authority

Google likes web content that is well-written, unique, authoritative. If you hire an excellent, seasoned writer and editor, the content will be well-written. And if you're tailoring the content to your constituents' needs and addressing questions for which it is difficult to find answers, the content will be unique. But will your content be authoritative?

Digitally you establish authority when people are interacting with your content online. They are responding to it, sharing it, and linking back to it. Well-written, unique content is inherently authoritative to some degree, but there are some things you can do to give it an authority boost.

One of the best ways to give content an authority boost is to cultivate brand ambassadors. Here's another example. Another organization that serves people with disabilities and their families has a resource page listing community businesses that are especially effective at working with children with disabilities. Is your child who has autism terrified of getting her hair cut? Here's a hairdresser with a calming manner who makes the most frightened children comfortable. Does the spasticity caused by your son's cerebral palsy create a special challenge for dentists? Here's a pediatric dentist who's figured out some helpful techniques.

The Agency's blog could feature one such business each month, with a video clip that shows the facility and captures the owner talking about the business's approach to serving children with disabilities. Guess who's going to share that article far and wide? Yep: the owner, everyone who works there, and parents who are happy with the business's services and would like to recommend it to others. By featuring these businesses, The Agency would not only be improving its search results. It would be building buzz in the offline world and creating a resource library for families who need what the businesses offer.

Again, you will get found when you deliver what people need.


A lot more can be done to cultivate brand ambassadors and increase the authority of The Agency's blog. That will be the topic for a later post.

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Open letter to someone I really wanted to work for

 

I have been a candidate for a 24-hour-a-week social media copywriting position at a nonprofit organization whose mission is very dear to me. The interviewer seemed to think I was the right person for the job, but I was concerned that the scheduling would be too inflexible for implementation of an interactive social media plan—and for keeping up with my freelance business, which would continue to supply about half of my income.

I proposed to the interviewer that I work three six-to-eight-hour days on-site with up to six floating off-site hours for social media engagement. After a couple of weeks to think about it, the interviewer wasn't wrapping her mind around the idea. She said that the floating hours are unnecessary because the organization just schedules social media postings on the off days. I realized that we're light years apart on how social media strategy works and that I was likely to be very frustrated in the position. I decided to withdraw from the hiring process. I am very disappointed. I looked forward to using my skills to advance the organization's mission, and I am confident that I would have done a great job for them.

This post is the email I wrote to withdraw myself from consideration. In a subsequent post, I will write about a hypothetical social media plan I wish I could implement for an organization like this one.


[Interviewer's name],

Thanks for taking time to talk about scheduling.

I am withdrawing from the hiring process. It is clear that our understanding of social media marketing is too different for me to be able to implement an effective strategy for xxxx.

I understand content marketing as an integrated strategy that requires real-time engagement with brand ambassadors, potential partners, media contacts, and other interested members of the community at sometimes unpredictable moments throughout the week. Being inactive on social media for xxxx outside of the three scheduled days would hamstring the marketing efforts that I would be charged with implementing. I don't want to take a job I can't do well.

Also, as you know, half of my income would still need to come from my freelance business, which I would be unable to maintain sufficiently if I needed to go dark with clients three full business days each week.

I am very disappointed to be withdrawing. I was enthusiastically looking forward to using my long-cultivated skills to serve xxxx xxxx xxxx and their families. I hope that I will be able to implement a robustly interactive online content strategy to serve the community elsewhere soon.

Meg

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Purposeful porpoising: Working smart when you gotta work hard

 

A few weeks ago I repeated a tired lament to a longtime colleague: I am so busy providing the same services to the same group of clients in the same sector that it's tough to position myself to offer new services to new clients in new sectors.

"You're porpoising," she said. "You gotta stop doing that."

I'd never heard of porpoising. My colleague explained: "You disappear underwater for weeks on end working hard for your clients, and then when you come up for air, you realize you haven't generated any leads, and there's no work."

Well no, I told her. That's not what's happening with me. Usually I come up for air, take a deep breath, then dive right into the next round of projects. That's why this blog is Freelance Feast, not Freelance Feast and Famine.

But I got to thinking about it, and I realized she is right. In a way.

A steady current

Providing the same services to the same clients in the same sector is a risky way to run a business. It's always necessary to draw new clients into the constant-steady-occasional current. As new clients occupy a larger proportion of your portfolio, potential drop-off of old clients is less threatening. And when you welcome new clients in new markets you are opening the door to more interesting work and potentially higher earnings.

And yet I porpoise. I stay underwater so long that I don't take enough time to scan the waterscape for something new. I know why I do this. It's very simple.

When porpoising has a purpose

I am a single parent with a lot of responsibilities. I need to keep the money coming in while caring well for two wonderful daughters, one of whom has special needs. Lately, each time I resolve to devote more time to skill-building, blogging, and marketing to new types of clients, new waves of parenting busyness capsize the plan.

When the waters calm, it's time to dive back underwater again. Because no matter what life throws at my family, after I tend to their needs, I make sure I do great work for my clients and get it in on time.

So yes. Sometimes I am a porpoise. But I am a porpoise with a purpose.

"Start breathing immediately"

After an enormous September storm on the homefront that swamped my workweeks, I posted on Facebook, "A lot of things are sorting themselves out, but I'm overwhelmed with everything I need to do in the next six weeks before I can breathe."

My wise friend Chris was quick to comment: "No, no, no. Start breathing immediately."

After another storm a couple of weeks later, she asked me what I needed. A walk? Some chili? Too busy for a walk, I asked for the chili. It made me feel so much better, and after I ate I enjoyed a great burst of productivity.

This porpoise needs to breathe a lot more regularly. In two ways.

It's important for freelancers not to become too isolated during busy spells. We need relationships and we need refreshment. When I disappear for an extra long work season, eventually I hit a point of diminishing returns, and I struggle mightily to stay focused. I need to get some fresh air, spend time with friends, set my mind on different tasks or no task at all.

I also need to come up for air more often professionally. I need to take a deep breath, scan the waterscape, and learn the habits of new kinds of fish. I may still need to dive in the same spot a few more times, but once I have the opportunity, I'll be ready to dine in tastier waters.

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First questions of a freelance business coach

 

Last week two people asked if they could pick my brain about freelance editing for book publishers. I listened to them describe their situations and tell me how they thought I could help them. Then I asked each of them a personal question: "Are you the primary earner in your household? Or is yours the supplemental income?" In other words:

Can your household budget survive your editing for publishers?

It's a shame that I would need to pose this question to my talented colleagues, but I need to be honest. Many publishers' business models include farming out book editing at $25 an hour or less—which won't support most households as a solo income. (I believe that this is an unconsciously sexist practice: expecting mostly women to do highly skilled professional work for pin money. I wish rectifying this were on publishers' minds when ebooks allow them to revitalize their back lists and realize savings in printing and distribution. But those are issues for another post.)

When I started out as a freelance editor, $20-some an hour looked like decent money. It was comparable to what I had been earning as a part-time adult education instructor, I would be able to flex my hours so I wouldn't need to pay for child care, and mine was the supplemental income.

But when I became the primary earner, an hourly rate in the low 20s looked completely different. Self-employment taxes chewed up a larger part of my gross when I dropped on-site teaching to go full-time as an editor. We now were paying for health insurance completely out of pocket. I learned that I was wrong to believe that I could crank out 40 billable hours a week without cerebral burnout. And the necessity of keeping 40 hours of work in the house at all times led to frequent scheduling train wrecks.

Still, my time editing for book publishers did positive things for my career. I gained experience and made valuable professional contacts while I managed the steady flow of projects that was necessary to keep the household afloat. So I posed another question to my two colleagues:

How does freelancing for publishers fit in with your larger professional and personal goals?

By the end of our conversation, one of last week's brain pickers planned to talk with her husband about a long-term plan: She did want to edit for publishers to get some experience under her belt before offering editing services to better-paying clients. For her to do this, however, she needed her husband's agreement to swap roles. His would need to be the primary income for a time, and hers the supplemental.

The other brain picker was pretty sure that she would continue to edit for publishers. Her husband is the primary earner in the household, and she still has one child at home. Work for publishers provides a steady income, and our conversation helped her to realize that she could give herself permission to bill fewer hours weekly than the overwhelming 40 she had been aiming for. She now agrees that if she bills a steady 25 hours while maintaining her business as a whole and caring for her family, she isn't being a slouch.

Every major business decision you need to make is wrapped in the context of your larger professional and personal life. So choose carefully, always keeping your long-term goals and your loved ones in mind.

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Work-from-home parenting: Some dos and don'ts

 

Nearly fourteen years into my freelance career, I'm still wrangling with challenges rooted in bad decisions I made early on. So I hope you won't do as I did when I began working from home full-time.

On the other hand, I wouldn't still be self-employed if I hadn't done some things right—things that you should do too if you're working and parenting in the same space.

I could write a book on the perils and pleasures of work-from-home parenting. Here I will offer just a few dos and don'ts.

Don't overestimate the number of hours you can bill

When I ran the numbers to determine whether I could be the primary supporter of our household for a time as a freelancer, I assumed that I would be able to bill 40 hours a week. I did consistently bring in enough work to meet that goal, but I also rushed myself toward cerebral burnout.

The billable freelance hour is not the same as the on-staff hour. When you go into an office, your focused work is interrupted by meetings, coffee room chats, and various office affairs. When you're freelancing, you only bill laser-focused time. Most freelancers I've talked to bill 25 to 30 hours a week. A consistent 40 billable hours is not sustainable for most people over the long haul.

And remember, you need to put in more time than your billable hours. As a freelancer, you need to market your services, maintain your computer, network with colleagues, and develop new skills. Chances are you didn't decide to work from home so you could be heads-down with work 60 hours every week. So plan a 40-hour schedule that includes marketing, skill development, networking, and lunch away from your desk.

Don't overestimate the amount of support you'll have around the house

If your switch to at-home work is part of an overall realignment of household duties, be aware of the risk of unfulfilled promises. For example, if the game plan requires someone to put in long hours with the children who has never done so before, I recommend easing into the new earning plan gradually to see whether your housemate rises to the occasion.

Be absolutely honest with yourself. If your partner seems unlikely to sustain the household effort over time, budget for child care and other household help. If you think you will need such help and you can't fit it into the budget, then step back from the work-at-home plan and evaluate whether this is the right path for your family.

Do do great work

Because of my initial miscalculations, for years I worked unhealthily long hours, and I didn't sleep enough. It was very difficult. But I always did great work for my clients, and I always met my deadlines. Because of that—and a smart diversification strategy—my hourly earnings climbed over time and I was gradually able to reduce my billable hours to a more sustainable level while earning more each year.

Do remember the people you're doing this for

I am a work-from-home parent because I believe in present parenting. But working from home doesn't guarantee that you will be present to your children. For a while my girls and I enjoyed watching the reality show Supernanny, and I noticed that many episodes featured work-from-home parents who were always distracted and rarely engaged with their children. It makes no sense to work from home to be with your children, then refuse to be with them.

So build a wall around your family time, and don't let work interfere. Use the time you save by not commuting to cook healthy meals and enjoy family banter in the kitchen. When you're not behind a door working, be interruptible. Relish the fun surprises and teachable moments you're lucky to be present for while other parents are at the office or on the road.

If you're committed to the work-from-home life for the long haul, remember that it's never going to be cushy. As kids grow older, they need you just as much as when they're small, though in different ways. They're away more once they start school, but they need more focused attention in the evenings with schoolwork and next-day preparations, and over time they'll sleep less and less. Now I have teenagers and I work more while they're home and awake, but I'm also more willing to be interrupted and to have my day broken up by midday time together. This works best for our relational rhythms in this season of our lives. I expect that we will continue to share work and living space until my nest is empty. It's not always easy, but what a lucky mom I am!

Join the conversation

Are you considering working from home while parenting? What motivates you to make the switch? What are your biggest concerns?

Are you already working from home? What do you wish you'd done differently? What are you glad to have done well?

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Keep the blog rolling

 

"I've thought about blogging, but I'm worried about keeping up with it."

It's a legitimate concern. Especially if you would have primary or sole responsibility for the blog as well as for a business and a household, as I do.

I recently was slammed with work and family obligations on either side of a much-needed vacation, and my blog went silent. I'm cutting myself some slack because the blog is new and I haven't had much time yet to implement my full plan, but now I need to get down to blogging business again. I'll start by offering some advice—to myself and to my readers—about keeping the blog rolling.

Create a doable blogging schedule

Sure, it would be great if you could blog daily. But can you really produce quality content seven days a week? I originally planned to blog three times weekly, then I scaled it back to two. Many colleagues have been impressed that I've kept up with twice a week (before my recent hiatus), so maybe just once a week would be OK. It's your blog. You get to make the rules. If you make rules you know you can live by, you'll be more likely to keep them.

I like the twice-a-week plan and will be building back toward it as the smoke clears from this busy season.

Bank some content

Whenever you have some downtime in your business, write some evergreen content that you can post when you're too busy to produce something fresh. Never have downtime? Great! But still try to create one evergreen post a month. If I'd done that, my blog wouldn't have gone silent during my recent vacation.

Line up guest bloggers

Guest bloggers bring fresh voices to your blog. They also spread the word to their own networks and link back from their own websites, increasing traffic for your blog.

Editing a guest's post usually takes less time than producing original material, so welcoming guest bloggers frees up your time for other business development activities. My goal (alas, still just a goal) is to write a guest post for someone else's blog for every contributed post I publish on my own blog.

Vary the length and complexity of content

Every post doesn't need to be 500 words. Readers will appreciate images with just a few words of description; occasional brief, pithy reflections on the day's events; and quick expert tips (I created my TweetSmart category for this purpose).

Get help

Just because you're a nonprofit leader or successful small business owner doesn't mean you're a stellar writer and editor. So contract with someone who is! A skillful content manager can edit blog posts written by you and your staff, help you create and keep up with an editorial calendar, recruit and work with guest bloggers, and write original posts. If you go this route, be sure you contract with someone who will learn your organization and faithfully reflect its voice.

Cut yourself some slack

The best-laid plans aren't always easily followed. If you get off track and are posting less frequently than you intended, jump back in to get the blog rolling again while you reevaluate your plan.

Like I'm doing right now!

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