Viewing category ‘Like talking but with more typing’

Cornered Office

with Mir Kamin

I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.

To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/

There’s no excuse for poor presentations

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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The standard joke is that writers do what they do because it allows them to work 1) alone and/or 2) silently, and no one should be surprised when writers are awkward or boring in person. There was certainly a time when one could fit that stereotype and still make a decent living, but nowadays it’s nearly impossible to be a career writer and not have to do a certain amount of public speaking as part and parcel of that existence. Write books? Go on tour to promote them. Blog for a living? Sit on some panels at conferences. Otherwise freelance in the realm of getting paid for your words? Rest assured, somewhere, at some point, you are going to be expected to speak publicly in support of the work you do.

Nothing will make people question your professionalism more than a terrible public speaking engagement. Listen, some people just get nervous and handle themselves poorly in public; it doesn’t mean they’re dumb or incompetent by default. But a good public showing showcases your ability to conduct yourself like a professional, while a poor one suggests you don’t do well under pressure.

The good news is that presentation skills can be learned. If you don’t yet handle yourself well in this arena, don’t panic! You can cultivate the skills you need.
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Summertime: Flextime, scheduled time

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing)

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When my kids were little—when they truly needed near-constant supervision—the only summer option that allowed me to continue working was some sort of care arrangement that covered school hours. They could go to camp, or I could hire a sitter, but there had to be something. As they’ve grown, summer has changed; we’ve gone from constant, full-day care to fewer scheduled activities, and now that they’re both teens, I don’t have to schedule them for anything at all. Let’s face it, they can feed themselves and keep themselves alive without much help. They’ve even reached that magical age where I never hear “I’m booooooooored!”

So the good news is that I can work as much as I need to and I don’t have to worry that my children are going to wander off or set the house on fire or anything. We sat down as a family and discussed the summer, a few months back, and this was the first year where I was really able to say to both kids, “Tell me what you think will work best for you.” My son was really looking forward to doing a whole lot of not much, and maybe spending more time with friends than we generally manage during the school year. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted to take a class and some lessons. They had different desires but we wanted to make it work, and so far it seems like it is.

The interesting thing, for me, is how keeping the kids on a workable schedule is actually helping me make my summer schedule more productive.
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Writing a resume when you’ve got a “mom gap”

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Like talking but with more typing

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I’ve now been freelancing for so long, for the most part, I don’t even have to produce a resume when applying for a new gig—I can direct potential clients to my LinkedIn account and/or my website to check out my credentials. But it didn’t start that way, of course.

A decade ago, I started looking for work again when I’d been home with my kids for years. To make matters worse, I was looking for writing work when I had an employment history as an engineer. This was before LinkedIn, before I’d started blogging, before Facebook and Twitter and all the ways we make networking connections as a matter of course nowadays.

Every time I had to submit a resume I agonized over how to best “beef up” my actual qualifications, while somehow minimizing the gap in my work experience. Usually I would give up on the resume and try my best to write a cover letter that charmed potential employers into overlooking the fact that I’d spent the last three years at home, changing diapers. And I hadn’t thought about this for years until a friend of mine—a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom—asked me for help in writing a resume. “I don’t have any qualifications,” she fretted. But that’s not true; resumes are one part truth and one part flair, and that’s particularly true for folks in creative fields like writing.
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Silly Mommy, conferences are for… mommies?

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Like talking but with more typing, Things you should be reading

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I feel like I should preface this by admitting that back in 2006, I was part of a BlogHer panel called “Mommyblogging is a Radical Act.” As much as I’ve never been a fan of this particular term, way back then—seven years ago, which is like, what, maybe 49 years ago in Blogging Years, right?—I thought it was important that the blogging community have an honest discussion about what it means to share about our experiences as parents. I have no regrets about being part of that. At the time, that sort of blogging was still sort of new and different and we were all figuring out what it meant.

But that was seven years ago, and a lot of things have changed since then… including that many of us who were simply sharing our day-to-day for the sake of finding an outlet and community are now paid to write. Many of us are freelance writers running our own small businesses, working full-time (or more), and the fact that we write about our children from time to time is either incidental or just a fraction of the work we get paid to do.

And yet, good lord, the world is just so reluctant to let go of that term “mommyblogger.” Most of the time I don’t care; what’s in a name? I’m just doing my thing, getting my work done, living my life, whatever. But then there always comes someone wanting to take that dismissive term and use it as the cornerstone of painting every woman with a blog as a silly little moron.
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Persona vs. personality

Categories: Like talking but with more typing

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I have this coffee mug that says “I’m famous on the Internet.” My daughter gave it to me for Christmas, as a joke. I love it because it’s really big (all the better to hold lots of coffee…) and also because I think it’s hilarious.

Because I am not famous, on the Internet or otherwise. I have no desire to be famous.

A lot of people look at personal blogging as a way to “build a brand” and “become a celebrity” and I think those people are delusional. First of all, the number of people who are successful at becoming some sort of celeb through blogging compared to the number of people who wish they were is… not encouraging. And second of all, I cannot imagine wanting to be scrutinized the way so-called famous people are.

The joke in blogging is that you know you’ve arrived once you get a hateful, trollish comment on a post. Once someone cares enough to tell you how very wrong you are, that’s it! You’ve made it. Can you imagine the amount of vitriol famous bloggers are subjected to on a regular basis? No thanks. But more importantly, I think once a writer attains some level of attention for their personality, it becomes hard to avoid becoming a caricature of oneself.
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Reflections on an unexpected viral post

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing)

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So this week has been interesting for me, to say the least. I started a new gig, and I wrote my first post, hoping that things would go well. You never really know, when you start at a new venue. But I was (am) excited about it. I shared it with my readers on my personal blog and hoped I’d get at least a few comments.

The post in question is here, and at the time of this writing, it has over 20,000 Facebook likes, about a hundred “shares” (which I’m able to see; who knows how many I can’t), 80 comments, a whole mess of tweets, etc., etc., yeeha, woohoo, and all of that. I even had a local friend call me this morning to say that she’d seen my piece “all over” her Facebook feed this morning and was delighted to be able to say, “Hey! I know her!”

I don’t know; maybe this sounds like a regular day, to you. But to me, even as someone who’s been writing online for nine years—making a living for most of that time, mind you—this is more attention than any single piece of my writing has ever gotten before.

It’s completely wild. And weird.
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Read your writing contract

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing)

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One of the most important lessons to learn when working for yourself, I think, is that there’s no shame in outsourcing. I am a writer because I’m good at writing; some of the business-minutiae that comes along with being a freelancer I’m not so good at, and so I am deliberate about what I handle myself and what I don’t. To wit: I have an accountant. I love my accountant. Could I handle my taxes myself? Probably. But it would take me a lot longer than it takes him and it would make me nutty and if—God forbid—I ever end up getting audited, it’s peace of mind for me to know that I have someone who can essentially handle it for me. I consider my accountant money well spent.

On the other hand, I don’t have an administrative assistant or virtual assistant, and I know a lot of freelancers who do. For me, dealing with mail and paperwork isn’t a big deal—it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t take all that much time—so I do it myself. These sorts of decisions are really all about what makes you feel most comfortable.

New freelancers often ask me if they need to have a lawyer around to review their contracts. This question is not so very different from considering your taxes and your mail. Do you feel comfortable handling it yourself? If the answer is “absolutely not,” it may be worth having a lawyer look things over for you. But the average freelancer is going to be signing a lot of contracts, and most of them won’t be terribly complex, and so most can learn to handle this process themselves with a bit of coaching and experience.
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My reality with a standing desk

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, My boss is an idiot

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When I asked for reader questions a couple of weeks ago, a loyal lurker emailed a query rather than leaving it as a comment on the post, but that’s okay, because she’s one of my favorites. In fact, she apparently remembers a post from a couple of years ago when I triumphantly announced my acquisition of a standing desk, because here’s the question:

I am curious to know about your experience with your stand-up desk. Still using it? What percentage of your day do you suppose you use it? Is it a block of time or interspersed? Some activities but not others? Do you feel better? Do you have to force yourself to use it because it’s good for you?

This is where I’m supposed to assure everyone that I use it all the time and I’ve lost weight, lowered my cholesterol, and my hair is inexplicably shinier. Right? I mean, I suppose that would be a better answer than what I’m about to say.

And really the short version of the truth is, “Hi, my name is Mir, and I am a terrible, unhealthy person.”
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The somewhat-annual “what do you want?” post

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing)

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Every now and then my day-to-day life as a freelancer settles down somewhat and I can’t think of any interesting way to spin what I’ve been doing that week. (“I got up in the morning, got my guys off to school and work, sat down at my computer, and worked for the rest of the day. And then the next day I did it again. And then again.” Not terribly informative or illuminating to read, right?) It’s a pretty good way to live—I’ll take boring in the grand scheme of things over a crisis anytime—but it doesn’t make for really excellent blogging.

I suspect y’all prefer it when I do things like underestimate my taxes or double-book myself on projects. Being stupid is funny! Yayyyyyy!

Okay, kidding aside, given that I’ve been writing here for a looooong time, I often reject a possible topic because I feel like “I already covered that” when, in fact, readers come and go, and things change, and everything has a season, turn, turn, turn…. Wait. That last bit is a song. Ignore that.

Anyway. It’s time to find out what burning questions you have.
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Learning a good thing from doing a stupid thing

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Like talking but with more typing, My boss is an idiot

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I made a giant mistake today. Actually, it was a tiny mistake, but it felt like a giant one to me. It felt bad.

But let me back up a minute, first.

I mostly talk, in this space, about deliberate business decisions related to my career as a freelance writer. I don’t talk about my personal blog all that much because, honestly, while the personal blog certainly opened the doors that allowed me to make a career out of writing, my personal blog isn’t “work.” I make very little money from it, and other than a handy sort of living portfolio, it doesn’t figure into my professional life nearly the way almost everything else does. When I’m talking about “making my living as a writer,” that’s not what I’m talking about.

On the other hand, the personal blog is how it all started, and it’s where I’ve been writing the longest, and it’s (arguably) what I’m most “known” for, so it’s not unimportant. And I’ve been writing there coming up on nine years, so it’s all old hat for a pro like me, right?
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