Archive for January, 2012

January 26, 2012

Things People Assume Because You’re Natural

For those of you who are unaware, the term “natural” is used in reference to African American’s who choose to keep their hair in it’s natural state (i.e. kinky curly and no relaxers). Or some may argue to really be considered natural your hair must be sans all

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/auz8D5

chemicals such as hair dyes. But for arguments sake lets just say it means your hair is in its natural, kinky curly state. When an African American woman chooses to go natural, she unknowingly opens the doors to baseless stereotypes of assumptions. After making the switch to natural in 2009, I’ve heard my fair share of assumptions spewed at me. They include:

1. I have an afro so I must be afrocentric.

2. I’m low maintenance and don’t care about how I look.

3. My idols must be Angela Davis, Jill Scott, Macy Gray, Diana Ross and India Arie. Why else would I wear my hair like them?

4. I have “good” hair otherwise I wouldn’t go natural.

5. I don’t comb my hair. I just roll out of bed and keep it moving.

6. I have a bohemian-chic style.

7. I lead a very earthy lifestyle and only use all-natural, organic products for every aspect of life.

8. I’m a starving artist.

9. I’m a rebel always fighting some cause.

10. I spend my nights grooving at poetry slams.

11. I’ll be single for life because no man will ever find my hair attractive.

12. I must not need a pillow because my big hair is extra comfy for impromptu naps.

13. It literally takes me hours to style my hair in any other style but an afro.

14. I must not own any hats because there is none that can fit over hair like that

And my absolute favorite….

15. I can’t be American. American hair doesn’t look like that.

What assumptions have been made about you because of your hair? Or have you been guilty of making baseless hair assumptions?

January 24, 2012

How I Learned to Love Marketing

Marketing. It’s a word that scares most entrepreneuers and a word I admittedly knew nothing about when I started out. When I first started my writing business I knew nothing about how to adequately market my services. So I did what any young entrepreneur  in the technology age would do. I slapped together a website and portfolio and published it. Then I sat back and waited for the prospects to come running. The only problem was the people didn’t come running. It was more like a trickling of prospects a few times a month. So I decided it was time for a change and time to revamp my marketing strategy.

After doing some research, I found  the words that stuck out the most were social networking and cold calling. So naturally, I drafted a marketing plan that included Facebook and cold calling various businesses in the area. I even threw in some direct mail. Although I had some successes, the problem was I hated every minute of it. I have NEVER been a fan of Facebook and the idea of calling random people to sell them on my services was extremely nerve wracking. As a result, I struggled to push myself to actually do the marketing I planned on. But the I more I did it, the more I hated it. Until one day I asked myself why I was doing it. I was obviously marketing to expand my business, but why did I have to torture myself in the process?

The whole reason why I quit my job to pursue writing was so I would no longer have to do the work I hated. I  could actually LOVE what I do for a living. Wouldn’t taking on marketing projects I hate defeat the purpose? There was no reason for me to continue to dread marketing when no one was forcing me to do it. So I promptly discontinued the cold calls, direct mail, and Facebook to begin a hunt for different marketing strategies I could actually love or at least learn to love.

After I waded through Tumblr, email marketing, and Twitter I finally found my holy grail: In-person marketing and blogging. I also learned to love LinkedIn. Considering I work from home, I jump at the chance to leave the house and socialize with outsiders. And it only made sense to start a blog since I make a living as a writer. What’s funny is the choices seem so obvious now. I can’t believe it took me almost a year to figure this out. Ever since I implemented these tactics into my marketing strategy, I no longer struggle to make time for marketing because it doesn’t feel like work anymore. I actually enjoy doing it. I guess you can say I stopped marketing  since the strategies I chose tend to be fun. And can you believe I yield much better success rates now that I love how I choose to market. Guess my mom was right – Do what you love and the money will come!

It took me almost 12 months of hating my efforts to realize, if I don’t like something I should change it.

Did you have a similar situation? How do you market yourself or business? 

January 19, 2012

Casting Call for Brides-to-Be! Do You Want to be on TV?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of going to my first bridal showcase as a bride-to-be. (I’m usually there for my own business endeavors and to make business contacts.) It was a nice change to go to a bridal showcase and actually be a bride and not an entrepreneur!  I had the pleasure of connecting with several businesses wishing to fulfill wedding day dreams such as photographers, performers, designers etc.

And then there was the casting director of a little show called Bridezillas. No, I don’t want to be a Bridezilla, but I love talking to people and asking lots of questions. I guess it’s the journalist in me. Anyway, the casting director explained there will be a new format to the show and a host for the new season. The best part is participants will be compensated $3,000 for their Bridezilla-esque behavior. Interested in making now the start of your 15 minutes of fame? Here’s the casting information taken directly from his flyer:

Bridezillas

We’re searching for Outspoken, Charismatic, and Funny Brides for season 9!

Are you a sassy yet classy diva who has high expectations and wants nothing less than perfection?

Are you an American princess who wants to have a royal wedding of her own?

Are you a socialite who wants all things extravagant and over-the-top leaving your guests buzzing about your big day?

Are you a former reality television star who wants to share their magical day with America?

Are you spoiled and want the wedding day of your dreams regardless of what others might say?

Are you obsessed with every detail of your wedding and feel no on understands your vision?

Are you fed up with your family, bridesmaids, and in-laws’ inability to get things right?

To be considered, email the below information to swatt68@yahoo.com.

For questions call 646-645-1855

  • Bride’s Full Name
  • City & State
  • Contact #
  • Email
  • Wedding Date
  • Wedding Budget
  • Wedding Website or Facebook Page
  • Tell us about a Bridezilla moment you’ve had since you started wedding planning
  • Who is giving you the most stress and why?
  • Give us your top 3 concerns or biggest fears for your wedding?
  • What kind of Bridezilla do you think you’ll be and why?

DON’T FORGET TO INCLUDE A COUPLE PHOTOS OF THE ENGAGED COUPLE!

Brides will be compensated $3,000!!!

January 18, 2012

The Problem with Formal Higher Education…

It doesn’t guarantee success. Not in the least bit. But that doesn’t stop people from thinking it does. Yet, a formal higher education (i.e. college) is pushed on young adults so frequently. Why doesn’t it guarantee success? Because success means different things to everybody, it is impossible for one kind of educational institution to guarantee success for all individuals. And they most definitely shouldn’t be marketed that way. (Although, that’s what they seem to do.)

So how do we fix this? We need to recognize that college is not one-size-fits all even though some seem to think it is. Not everyone is destined to be the world’s best historian or the most charismatic social media consultant. And even if they are, a formal education is not always necessary to get there. In all honesty, colleges never really guaranteed every type of success. They created the illusion of guaranteed success in the form of a great job. However, the poor economy has showed us that a formal education can’t even guarantee us that. That’s why it’s important for society to let go of college as the only means to a dream and recognize the other options. Most importantly young adults need to define their version of success and determine if formal higher education is the best route to get there. After some analyzation they may realize there is a bigger and better option than college. Then again there might not be… Regardless, it’s worth exploring whether or not that flaw with formal higher education is ignorable or if you are better of taking your gamble with “success” elsewhere.

January 13, 2012

The Secret to Writing an Effective Thank You Note

I’ve written a post about the importance of giving thanks in the past. What I failed to do was mention the importance of writing a thank you note the right way. Over the years, I’ve gotten a number of thank you notes. But you’d be amazed at how many of them actually do it right. While it may be the thought that counts, the thought has a lot more pull when it’s formulated in an eloquent way. Believe it or not I’ve gotten thank you cards with miss spellings, wrong information, and those that even forgot to say thank you! In my experience, an effective thank you note has several elements. They are as follows:

  • Preferably handwritten – (A typed one can pass but it lacks that personal touch)
  • No spelling or grammatical errors – (This one’s a no brainer, but oh so many seem to have missed the memo. And please by all means make sure the name is spelt correctly)
  • Reference to what the receiver did for you – (If you want to the receiver to remember who you are, mention what he/she did for you. –  i.e. shoveled my sidewalk, gave advice, edited my resume)
  • Something actionable – (Make a call to action or a promise. – i.e. Let me know how that event goes or I’ll give you a call to let you know if it pays off.)
  • A compliment or something personal about their lives –  (Make a mental note about something in that person’s life and then mention it in the note.  – i.e. By the way, you have lovely penmanship or Congrats for celebrating 11 years of marriage.)
  • The actual thank you – (Yes, even though you took the time to write this personal note you still have to say the words.

No, you won’t be penalized if all of the above aren’t included in the note, but chances are you’ll have a better shot of getting what you want if you do; especially the part about the compliment. Who can resist following up with someone who gushed about their fabulous sense of style? Do yourself a favor And try to keep the news of your recent engagement or great book offer out of the card. Now is not the time to utilize your bragging rights. Remember, this is about the receiver!

The best thank you note I ever received told me how useful my advice was, promised to tell me if she reaps any benefits as a result of it, thanked me for spending valuable time helping her, and commended me for my giving spirit and various volunteer work. On top of that she even wrote it in a purple pen on a purple card. She obviously remembered my obsession with the color. Needless to say, I will definitely keeps her in mind for future opportunities calling her name!

So break out the pens take your best shot of showing gratitude and flattery all within a few sentences.

January 11, 2012

How To Not Let Wedding Planning Take Over Your Life…

Most people are aware that once a girl gets a ring on her finger she suddenly gets consumed with wedding planning. A lot of women even end up planning their wedding at their day job. For a while, I couldn’t understand why women get so obsessive about planning a wedding… And then I got engaged. With so much information being constantly thrown at you it’s no wonder all things weddings suddenly take over lives. Luckily, writing about weddings is just one of my many day jobs so I welcome the information. But for those who aren’t as fortunate and actually need to focus on something else every once in a while, here are my top tips for preventing wedding plans from taking over your life.

1. Avoid Pinterest like the plague.

I made the mistake of making a Pinterest account recently. It’s only been a few days and I’m already addicted. Why? Because the best photos and inspirations all happen to be wedding related. Who can resist all those pretty photos and pins that pop up so frequently? It’s like a drug and I can’t get unhooked. Save yourself while you can, and wait to join the bandwagon until after the wedding. If not, you’ll never have a non-wedding related thought for a while.

2. Only sign up for a few email newsletters and don’t have them sent to your phone.

You’d be surprised how often you get newsletters sent to your inbox on a daily basis. Imagine how much you’d get once you sign up for updates for three or more wedding newsletters. It’s even worse when you have your emails setup for you cell phone. You’ll be getting wedding updates 24/7 via two mediums. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid it. Take my advice. Nip it in the bud and limit the email subscriptions.

3. Stick to following a handful of your wedding favorites on Twitter.

Don’t overdo it by following 110 wedding planners and 15 college buddies. You’re timeline will be filled with nothing other than tiaras, themes, and bridesmaid dresses. Do yourself a favor and stick to following you top 10 to 15 picks. You can keep up with the other ones on Wedding Wednesday – that’s when they tweet the best stuff anyway.

4. Refrain from downloading any toolbar tickers or desktop reminders.

You know when your wedding day is. There’s no need to download every toolbar, desktop manager, and wedding ticker out there. You’d never be able look at your desktop calendar the same way again. Every click of the mouse would be wedding related! Make a promise and  stick to peeking at  that checklist and countdown by logging into your account on The Knot once every few days. Even if you didn’t, chances are you’ve already carved the date into you memory so you’re good to go.

5. Designate only two days a week to watch TLC or WEtv.

I’ve found that it is impossible to watch either channel without seeing a wedding related commercial or preview once every 15 minutes. But that seems to be the problem with most channels these days. And than of course, there are those constant marathons of Say Yes to the Dress, Cake Boss and My Fair Wedding. It’s never ending.

6. Stay away from tabloids and gossip shows

It seems like every week a new celebrity gets engaged these days. It’s only a matter of time until you get wrapped up in Halle Berry’s, Drew Barrymore’s and Jessica Beil’s wedding plans on top of your own. Trust me – you’ll never hear the end of speculation wedding reports once a celeb proposal goes down. Channel your will power and resist the urge to follow celeb wedding gossip.

Did I forget something? Did your wedding take control of your life or vice versa?

January 8, 2012

How Did You Get Your Start as a Freelance Writer?

It’s a question I get asked frequently. In fact, I get asked so often that if I had a dollar for everytime someone asked me that question, I’d have one million dollars. Ok, maybe it’s not that much, but you get the picture. The point is I get asked so much that it made sense for me to write a blog post about it.

Oddly enough, I’ve always wanted to be a freelance writer. As a child and through out college I never wanted to work for anybody else. I have always had a creative and entrepreneurial spirit so making the decision to freelance was not a tough one. However, that does not mean that it wasn’t difficult to get started. The most difficult part about starting a freelance career is actually taking the plunge. It’s easy to say you are going to do something, but it’s not easy to actually do it. After holding a handful of internships, keeping several jobs, and listening to the naysayers I finally decided to take the risk of being a full-time freelance writer.

The truth is I had already been freelancing for years. However, it was a big step to quit a job with a cushy paycheck to go the freelance route. Because I had been freelancing part-time consistently I already had some clients. The first writing job I took was for Demand Studios. (I know, I know. Content mills are the devil) However, at the time I wasn’t even aware of what a “content mill” actually was. My main concern was finding work and getting paid for it so I could build up my portfolio. It didn’t take me long to learn the error of my ways. After my first and only $15 article, I realized it wasn’t worth it. It was way too much hassle for too little pay and it didn’t help develop skills in anyway . And a major insult to professional writers

I moved on to a beauty website I saw advertising for writers on the web. The pay was better – $50 per story. However, the editor was still too demanding for such little pay. It wasn’t worth it. However, I hung on to the gig for a few months because I was adding valuable clips to my portfolio.

After writing for the beauty website for six months, I moved on and began getting work the old fashioned way – Pitching. I learned the hard way that it is highly unlikely to get valuable experience and decent pay from job ads posted online. And so my writing business began. I would do research or come up with an idea, pitch it to a magazine, rinse and repeat. It wasn’t long until I realized the waiting period between actually writing the article and it actually getting published was too long. Unless you negotiate for payment on acceptance, it can take months till you actually see the fruits of your labor. As a result, I turned to commercial writing.

My first course of action was to vamp up my professional website, and fill my Linkedin profile with tons of keywords to get the attention of local businesses. Next I researched small to mid-sized businesses I was interested in working with and sent them a letter of introduction along with some writing samples. Luckily, I got some bites, wowed them with my business savvy, and closed the deal.  Most importantly I churned out great work and encouraged them to refer me to others. Repeat business is what keeps my freelance writing business alive and well.

I know some of you are wondering how you are going to accomplish what I did without a background in writing or any writing samples. Luckily, I’ve broken it down into six easy steps  for you.

1. Start writing. Even if you don’t have clients, write a feature article, create a newsletter for a mock business, start a blog, etc.

2. Display what you wrote in a portfolio, website, etc.

3. Identify target companies and contact them. Be prepared to show them your writing samples when asked.

4 .Do your research. Read books about writing, follow writing blogs, and contact those who are in your field. Check out my TERRIfic Things page for some great writing resources.

5. Market yourself like crazy to get the word out about your writing business.

6. Do great work and encourage referrals.

January 2, 2012

New Year, New Focus: 2012 Edition

It’s that time of year when everyone decides to break out that New Year’s Resolution post. Since it seems like the “in” thing, I figured I’d give it a try.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions for when the clock strikes midnight, mostly because so many things can change from now to the end of a year. Resolutions also seem to lack direction and come off as vague. I usually break my goals down by month – much more attainable and manageable that way. However, I must admit that I do have some things I want to focus on to help me reevaluate my career and the direction it’s heading in.

I’m about to make some moves this year. Here’s where I’m going…

1. Get out of my bubble and mingle. It seems as though I’ve fallen into that loneliness that many freelancers tend to encounter. This year I want to spend more time reaching out to more freelance professionals; especially writers. Not only is it good for personal growth, it’s good for business. Of course, I can’t forget to reach out to the contacts I already have.

2. Work on appearance.Naturally, as a professional writer my focus tends towards content. However, it’s about time I worry about the appearance of my blog, website and marketing material. Expect to see changes.

3. Actually use my Writer’s Market book. Almost every year, some kind soul gives me a Writer’s Market reference book and I always neglect to use it the way I should. It’s about time I start utilizing the gold right at my fingertips.

4. Pitch like mad. Last year, I lost sight of my passion of magazine writing and focused more on copywriting projects and clients. This year I plan to focus more on doing more in the magazine world and pitching more editors as though my life depended on it.

5. Make a difference. The whole reason I got involved with journalism and writing was to make a difference in the world. However, I seem to have fallen short of that. Playing to my passion of volunteering and writing life-changing pieces is of utmost importance this year.

I think one of my biggest challenges is not getting completely consumed in wedding plans! Wish me luck!

Where are you heading this year? What’s your focus?