Write … to the Point

– writing tips and tricks

Archive for the month “September, 2016”

The freelance writer’s guide to working in the school holidays

Writing in school holidays

If you’re a freelance writer with kids, school holidays can be a tricky (and sometimes, frustrating) time.

Let’s be honest. In the freelance writing game, it’s very often ‘feast or famine’ — either too much work or not enough. And for the first few years, it’s very tempting to say ‘yes’ to any work that comes your way, until you are well-established in your field.

As luck (or Murphy’s Law) would have it, my busiest times have usually been during school holidays. This has often meant a stressful holiday period, trying to balance meeting deadlines and holiday fun. It is further compounded by the fact that writing for a living isn’t as simple as sitting down for a few hours and ‘getting it done’.

 

The zone — a near impossible place to find with kids around

Writing often means needing to be in the ‘zone’ — feeling the inspiration and getting the words to flow freely, rather than trying to extricate them one by one. As a health writer, I also need time to research my topic.

As any writer would know, the zone isn’t something you can turn on and off. It’s either there or it’s not. Sure, there are things you can do to help you get in the zone, but with a couple of noisy (and sometimes arguing) children in the background, getting there can be difficult. Even if you manage to find your way there, that magic place where the writing comes easy, can be shattered in an instant with the words “Mum, I’m hungry” or cries of “Stop it! Leave me alone!”

In the past, working during school holidays has meant early mornings, late nights and working across the weekends. By the time school term started up again, I was in need of a holiday myself. But of course, everything else that had been put on the back-burner while I was juggling work and school holiday activities was beckoning.

 

A different approach

After a couple of years trying to juggle deadlines, business activities and school holiday activities, I realised something had to give. So I started saying ‘no’ to new projects for those couple of weeks.

Instead, I work intermittently while I can, on things that are not urgent. They also don’t require me to be ‘in the zone’ so much, which means that I can make the most of snippets of time that becomes available.

 

Attend to non-urgent but important tasks

Things I focus on during this time include updating my website, researching for upcoming articles, planning out the remainder of my year, setting goals, planning social media posts, updating my folio, learning new things that will have a positive impact upon my business, as well as building relationships with key people.

Quite frankly, it’s been great. Instead of fitting school holidays (and the kids) around work, I’m fitting in my work around them. The great thing about this approach is that I don’t feel guilt. No guilt about not spending time with the kids when I’m working, and no guilt about not working when I’m with the kids.

 

Do less and be more productive

Interestingly, the quality of my work is a lot higher because I’m focusing more on what I want to get done, rather than the ever-present ticking clock when it comes to deadlines. I also don’t have to deal with the problem of how I’m going to fit it all in. There is a lot less frustration, because writing deadlines are not in the picture. It’s an arrangement that seems to work for me, and one that I will endeavour to employ in future school holidays.

 

Do you need to pull back in the holiday period?

It’s very easy to get caught up in the busyness of work and family life It’s even more easy to be swamped by the juggle that is work and school holidays. One thing I have learnt however, is that sometimes we need to take something out of the picture in order to have more balance, more fun and less stress.

And funnily enough, having that bit of time off means I am more than ready to get stuck into work when the kids return to school.

If you’re a freelance writer trying to juggle kids and school holidays, try pulling back a bit to see what a difference it can make to you.

 

Cheers
Nerissa

NOTE: With only one school term left this year, and my diary filling up, opportunities to work with me this year are dwindling. If you don’t want to miss out, contact me TODAY to see how I can help you.

 

 

Advertisements

10 tips when writing for business

10 tips when writing for business

Writing copy for your business is very different from writing for other media. With many other companies competing with you for the same customers, it’s essential that your message hits all the right notes.

Here’s a list of things to consider when putting together your business communications.

1. Know your message

What do you want your potential and current customers to know? What’s the one key point you need to convey to them? While you probably have a few things you’d like to tell them, stick with the one message to avoid confusion.

2. Be clear

Once you are clear on your message, convey it with clear and concise writing. Use simple, easy-to-understand language, avoiding clichés and jargon. Write in short sentences and get right to the point. When your message is clear, you customers are informed.

3. Watch your tone

Ensure that your tone matches that of your audience. If you need to be authoritative, try not to be patronising. If you need to employ humour, ensure that it’s not full of corny ‘dad jokes’. Whatever tone you choose, your audience should feel a connection to you.

4. Remember your branding

What does your company stand for? What is your brand all about? Your written messages are another opportunity to increase your branding. Remember that when you write. If your brand is all about fun, then inject some fun into your message. If your brand is factual and scientific, ensure your message is factual as well.

5. Follow your style guide

This comes back to your branding, but ensure all your written communications follows the same style guide. Not sure what a style guide is? Put simply, it’s a list of ‘rules’ and ‘standards’ to follow with your writing, that promotes consistency, branding and marketing. If you want some tips on how to develop a style guide, click here.

6. Be professional

While standards of business communications have become more relaxed over recent years, always maintain a sense of professionalism. That means avoiding slang, text-speak, too many exclamation points (!!!), and language or topics that may offend.

7. Include a call to action

Don’t leave it to your readers to decide what to do next. Tell them. And make it easy for them. If you want them to call, then give the phone number. If you want them to email you, include a clickable link. If you want them to follow you on social media, include a clickable link. If you want them to visit their website — you got it — include a clickable link.

8. Don’t forget grammar and spelling

When you are busy paying attention to what you want to say, don’t forget about how you say it. Grammar and spelling really do matter. Communications that contain grammatical and spelling errors will only detract from your message.

9. Proofread before you send

Most of us do our best proofreading after we send — whether that be via email, social media or through the post. Check and double-check for errors before you disseminate anything. Some useful tips on proofreading can be found here.

10. Hire a freelancer

While this is not exactly a writing tip, it’s good to keep the option in the back of your mind. If writing is not your strong suit, or you simply don’t have the time to devote to crafting your message, consider hiring someone who can help. A good freelancer can help craft letters, blog articles, press releases, memos, training manuals, business letters or just about any other kind of writing you need.

Great writing is key for business. Using the tips above, you can greatly improve the likelihood of your key business messages hitting the right note.

However, if you would like help crafting communications for your business, please contact me. You’ll find I’m very easy to work with, and my rates will surprise you!

 

Cheers
Nerissa

Games to improve your vocabulary and spelling

Improve spelling and vocabulary with games

How many words are in your vocabulary? Do you know how to use them in the right context? How good is your spelling? Do you know your ‘there, their and they’re’?

If you’d like to improve either your vocab or spelling (or even both), a fun way is through word games — both the ‘old-fashioned’ variety board games, and the electronic versions.

 

Board/card games

One of the most iconic word games in the world is Scrabble. In this game, first released in 1938 , players use letter tiles to form words on a grid. Each letter is assigned a certain number of points, and the aim of the game is to score as many points as possible.

A relative of Scrabble, Upwords allows you to stack letters on top of existing words to create new ones.

Another great game is Scattergories. This is a creative thinking game where players list as many words as they can within a certain category, beginning with a particular letter, within a time limit.

If you want to continue to use your creative thinking skills and develop your vocabulary even further, play a game of Taboo. The aim is for a player to give clues in order to have their partner guess a particular word, without using the word itself, or other words typically associated with that word in question.

For those of you who love learning new meanings of words, then Balderdash can be great fun. The aim of the game is to win as many points as possible by listing definitions of obscure words. If you know the correct definition, you are awarded points, and if other players choose your definition as being the correct one (even if it’s incorrect), you also are awarded points.

For a fast-paced, quick-thinking game of words, why not try Bananagrams? It’s similar to Scrabble in that there are lettered tiles. However, everyone makes words at the same time with the objective to create a word grid (like a crossword) before anyone else can.

Another quick-moving game is Boggle. Players compete to find as many words as possible in a 4 x 4 grid, with a three-minute time limit.

 

Online games

There is a myriad of online word games, some of them versions of the games listed above. But perhaps one of the most popular is Words With Friends. Modelled on the game of Scrabble, you compete against online players to create words on a grid.

If you’re looking for a game you can play on your own, there are a couple of options. In the game of WordBrain, you move your way through increasingly difficult word puzzles.

Another game to play by your self is Bonza. This word puzzle game requires players to assemble a variety of crossword-style letter tiles, so they make a full word grid.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced game, try Scramble. The aim is to find as many words as you can on the grid of mixed up letters before the timer runs out.

Finally, 7 Little Words is a series of word puzzles you need to solve, with each puzzle containing a list of 7 words you need to find. You are provided a clue for every word you need to find.

And if you like using a pen and paper, don’t forget crosswords.

By no means is the above list an exhaustive one. But if you’re new to the world of word games, why not give them a try. Not only will you have fun, but you’ll be improving your spelling and vocabulary at the same time!

If you have any favourite word games you play, comment below. I’d love to try something new.

Cheers
Nerissa

Post Navigation