Monday, April 28, 2014

Forming Good Habits in Kids

Up until now, the adage remains true that no one can be 100 percent prepared for parenting. There seems to be a thousand and one cares and concerns that need a mom and dad's attention, down to the most minute and tiniest details. 

I've talked about money and finances as an excellent starting point for pitching ideas to parenting magazines. And yet, what's equally as important, or even more important, than issues with finances is modeling the kind of habits we'd like to see in our kids. 

Values formation has always been emphasized among churches and schools and must be instilled as early as possible. Investing time and energy in children yields the best form of benefits in the long-term.

Good habits must start at home, and cliche as it may sound, values are caught, not taught.

As a freelance writer, build your article proposals on the idea that starting small has many advantages, like developing one good habit at a time (e.g. going to bed on a certain time during schooldays). 

Also, the last thing that kids want to hear are "lectures," or long-winded reminders on what and what not to do.

So to get you started, think about the following when brainstorming:

  • Regulating the amount of time they spend watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Internet
  • Teaching them to form good study habits by figuring out what their best styles for learning are
  • Getting them started on proper nutrition, and how much exercise they need daily
  • Giving them a daily or weekly allowance for their school expenses
  • Balancing their time between schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and other hobbies

Friday, April 25, 2014

Vacations vs. "Stay"-cations, and How Families Can Save But Still Have Fun

In addition to weekends, there are school breaks all throughout the year when kids are given time away from the rigors of the classroom. And parents look for ways to keep their kids preoccupied and entertained during school breaks. 

And coming up with ideas on what to do during these breaks may be your gateway for getting published in parenting magazines.

Very recently, a number of articles have enumerated the benefits of families having "stay"-cations, or choosing to stay at home and have lots of activities over going on a trip abroad, where expenses for airfare, hotel rates, and food are sure to rack up a huge amount.

However, it can also be noted that several airlines, from time to time, offer promos like affordable trips to popular theme parks like Hong Kong Disneyland, and many parents are looking into this as a cost-effective way to take a vacation.

As you can see, there is a goldmine of ideas for articles from these contrasting points of view. But regardless of whether you're for a "stay"-cation or vacation, put your emphasis on the following:
  • The joys of getting together and spending time as a family
  • The value of relaxation, and how it can make both parents and kids feel recharged
  • Getting the kids excited about planning the activities, games, snacks, and refreshments. This will encourage kids to be as imaginative as possible and let their creative juices flow.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pitching Ideas to Parenting Magazines: Keep the Mindset of Consumer Moms and Dads in Mind

If you're a freelance writer and you'd like to break into parenting magazines, an excellent way to launch your career would be to pitch ideas for articles on how parents and families can achieve financial wellness.

Consider these facts: Even if this may be the age of two-income households, the majority of married couples prefer to keep their families small to keep expenses at bay. And yet, disagreement over financial issues still remain to be one of the most common triggers of marital disputes. 

There are a variety of other reasons that articles about finances are perennially welcome in parenting magazines. A couple may go through stages in their marriage, but money, or issues about money, must always be settled if marital harmony were to be preserved. 

The good news is you need not be a financial expert or certified adviser to give solid advice to readers.  Since parenting magazines hope to appeal to couples of all income brackets, managing editors prefer contributions from freelance writers of different stripes.

You may be a parent yourself, and you and your spouse are working as a team to provide for your children. And surely, even single adults who practice frugal spending habits have something worthwhile to share.

So, to get you started, let me cite some of the most common concerns among parents: 
  • Living within their means by coming up with a household budget, which may include payment for rent, food, clothing, water, electricity, telephone, and utility bills
  • Paying for their kids' education
  • Spending money on entertainment, trips, and vacations 
  • Setting aside a portion of their income for savings and investments
  • Saving for their retirement  

In my next few articles I'll talk about possible ways to approach these issues.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Harness the Mindset of a Consumer and Make Money

This next series of articles will teach freelance writers, bloggers, and graphic artists to earn money by operating from this philosophy:

Help people be more mindful of their spending by empowering them to be informed consumers.

In our modern age, holding down a job and getting a regular paycheck is one thing, but even more important is setting aside at least a substantial portion of your monthly paycheck for savings. 

Therefore, anyone who's making serious bucks should look for practical advice and tips on cutting down, or keeping expenses, at bay.

When coming up with a monthly or weekly budget, the majority of consumers are most concerned about cutting back on --
  • food, including expenses when eating out and celebrating with family members or friends.
  • apparel and shoes.
  • grocery items.
  • appliances.
  • entertainment.
  • expenses for vacations and trips. 

As you can see, the items mentioned above make up our most basic needs, but anyone can spend inordinately on just one or a few, to the point of excluding nearly everything else.
There are thousands of blogs, magazines, and other periodicals out there that will never run out of space for freelance writers who can make consumers' lives easier when they're out shopping. And if you can enhance your articles with visuals like graphics or charts to verify your claims, you can be assured of a higher honorarium rate. 

When brainstorming on possible topics, you can build your articles on the following:

  • Spending more on items that you'll use for a longer period of time.
  • Preferring second-hand or used items that are still in good condition, with the intent to save on a couple thousand pesos or dollars.
  • Scrimping on trendy, or "fadish," items.
  • Looking for alternative forms of recreation that are a lot less expensive.
  • What to do to save money when planning a trip or a vacation.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Increase Your Chances of Success by Making Smarter Attempts (Part 6)

This is the last part of this article series on increasing your chances of landing lucrative projects, shortening any "dry spells" you may still be experiencing, and improving your cash flow. 

Here are a few more suggestions:

For your cover letters

You can slash a few minutes here and there drafting your cover letters if you will come up with several templates, and then simply fill in the details according to what is needed by a potential client.

You should have several templates ready if you choose to look for projects in popular websites for freelancers and bid for them. Keep your portfolio or clips organized and up-to-date. If you'll provide links to your past works, make sure they're not "dead links."

There will also be certain times when you'll choose to go beyond your comfort zone and email queries to the managing editors of periodicals to which you're hoping to break in, either because they have a higher honorarium rate or a wider circulation. 

For your collection letters and other email correspondence

One of the worst problems that plague freelancing professionals up until now is clients attempting to rip them off by not settling the balance and leaving with the goods, never to be heard of again.

It may sound like I'm asking you to be ruthless, but you owe it to yourself to be compensated for your effort and hard work. Keep in mind that you're just as much of a professional as employees in a company's payroll.

For this purpose, you would need three basic types of collection letters. The first one is where your invoice should be attached, briefly stating that you expect the balance to be paid on a given date.

The second letter could simply be an acknowledgement that you have received the client's payment, and you're looking forward to the possibility of working with him again.

Or, it could also be a follow-up letter reminding your client to pay if enough time have passed (three to five business days) and you have not heard from him. 

Your client may have also replied after receiving your invoice, and for some reason told you that he would not be able to settle the remaining balance on the date upon which you agreed. So here's where you should negotiate with your client and offer a more flexible, or alternative mode, of payment.

Your third collection letter must be the one you send only after all remaining balance has been settled. This can be where you express thanks because your client had been willing to abide with the alternative payment plan you suggested. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Increase Your Chances of Success by Making Smarter Attempts (Part 5)

As I round up this six-part article series, I will suggest several feasible ways for you to eventually have a couple of specialties as you progress in your career as a freelancing professional, and how you can present yourself in the best possible way.

Consider the following:

The first thing you have to do is to check your records and carefully examine any recurring pattern, where you took in projects that are similar in nature. Narrow down your focus to two to three fields. You can assess their value in three ways:
  • Projects that require quick turn-over rates, like writing corporate resumes, editing sales and collection letters, proofreading documents, or ghostwriting. There is a huge demand for workers with these skills, and if you can work on an average of five to eight projects of such nature in a week, that would total to a very handsome amount of freelancer's fees after a month.
  • Projects that may stretch for several weeks or even months, where you choose to charge on an hourly rate. Hourly rates are considered "competitive" if they start at USD30 to USD35.
  • Collaborating with another freelancer and collecting a certain percentage as payment (e.g. taking photos and selling them to a writer who queries travel magazines, doing graphic design for a blogger, or keeping tab on the latest products or services for someone who writes reviews). 

Now, once you have these things down pat, here's how you should tweak your marketing strategy to get more projects within your chosen fields:

For your website

In your web pages, incorporate keywords or phrases that are highly likely to be found by search engines. For example, if you're a freelance copywriter, the words "print ad," "social media marketing," or "direct mail advertising" may come to mind. If you write copy for a particular group of clients, say, veterinarians, dentists, personal trainers, or fitness instructors, make sure that you have a firm grasp of the jargon used in these professions. 

The next thing you would have to do is engage your online visitors by including brief (between 250 to 400 words), informative articles that will serve as "teasers" to entice potential clients. You don't have to worry too much about baiting possible clients with sales pitches if they can already get a piece of the pie, so to speak, just by reading articles from your site. 

For your brochures, flyers, and business cards 

You can use built-in publishing software, like Microsoft Publisher, to save time and money, and to come up with personalized marketing materials that still have that professional touch.

Adopt a two- or three-font scheme that is no smaller than a size 12. Arial, Book Antiqua, or Times New Roman work best for these. Keep your template simple, and provide enough "white spaces."  

Your full name should be spelled out in a size that is slightly larger than the rest of your fonts (about 18 to 22 is ideal), and underneath, put your title, such as "Freelance Copywriter," "Multi-media Artist," or "Blogger Raising Consumer Awareness." 

Also, a good number of freelancers choose to market themselves by coining catchy phrases that cause potential clients to drum up an image in their minds about what the freelancer would be like, such as "Sally Fields, Book Doctor" (for an editor/proofreader of book-length manuscripts), "Jerry Redgrave: 'I Will Get Your Site (or Blog) on Top of Google -- Guaranteed!'" (for an SEO specialist),  or "You May Be All for Low-Cost Generic Brands, But Writing That Sounds Generic Will Hurt Your Sales" (for a pharmaceutical copywriter).

Lastly, giving away freebies or discounts have always proven to be one of the most effective ways to attract more clients. Allot a portion in your marketing materials where you place a glaring ad that's sure to get noticed, like "FREE: One-Hour Consultation," "Avail of Year-End Cut-off Rates," or "Get A 10-Percent Discount for An Article Set!" 

I will cite additional advice as an end-of-the-week treat for tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Increase Your Chances of Success by Making Smarter Attempts (Part 4)

The previous two cases of "missing the mark" as a freelancing professional had more to do with taking a proactive approach to landing a project, and yet, still getting turned down for reasons like not having the right credentials or the prospective client not needing your services at the moment.

Here's the next and last reason that points to the greatest flaw in a freelancer's self-promotion:

Case Number Three: Clients not having you in mind because you don't have a specialty

I've talked about the disadvantages of being a "one-stop shop," or generalist, in freelancing. Spending your first few years taking in every job outsourced to you is not bad, provided that you will soon figure out which tasks you found most enjoyable or which ones allowed you to prove your competence the most.

But if you still haven't developed a specialty on your third or fourth year as a freelancer, see that as a sign that you may be scattering your efforts in different directions and not assessing the value of each project that comes your way.

That would also mean a delay in having a regular cash flow. One of the best ways that freelancers can be assured of an almost steady income is to have around six to eight, or more, repeat clients who would need their services throughout the year. This will lessen their need to make cold calls, or email, absolute strangers.

Lastly, probably the greatest disadvantage of being a generalist is you creating less of an impact to potential clients through your marketing materials, like your website, brochures, flyers, even business cards.

To illustrate, I once stumbled upon a website that advertises the services of a talented pool of resume writers. They claim that they can get their clients hired in 30 days after they have created or polished their resumes, and even offered a money-back guarantee if clients found themselves still unemployed in 30 days.

I was mildly surprised after reading their claim, because it sounded like they were putting everything at stake. But their no-nonsense approach to creating resumes, backed up by years of experience and plenty of glowing testimonials from satisfied clients, are more than enough to bait more people to have their resumes done by them.

It never dawned on me before that by narrowing their specialty down to just one -- resume writing -- a thriving business would have evolved, and they price their services at competitive, although still reasonable, rates.

As I round up this article series in my next post, I'll cite feasible solutions to being a "one-stop shop." 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Increase Your Chances of Success by Making Smarter Attempts (Part 3)

In my previous article, I have cited another possible instance of "missing the mark," or a situation where you weren't exactly rejected by a possible client, but you won't be working anytime soon for them, either.

Of course, you want to remain productive while waiting to get some outsourced projects. If this is the case, making smarter attempts may mean any of the following: 

First, carefully examine the articles published in the website you found and try to gather any ideas that could be developed into articles. Maybe there were some aspects about the advocacy that haven't been fully discussed. You can turn them into feature articles and have them slanted towards another market: health magazines. 

Second, look for other sites with a similar "Fitness for Less" advocacy through Google or other search engines. Check to see if they have a Submissions or Write for Us page, and then email them a query.  

Third, if you can write effective copy and sales pitches, get in touch with health club owners or fitness instructors that organize classes. Some of these classes are advertised online, and owners of fitness clubs are constantly looking for ways to get more people to enroll. 

Keep in mind that incorporating a few widely accepted facts about the benefits of physical activity and presenting them in a way that sounds enticing to the layman has proven to be a foolproof marketing strategy. 

Also, enrollment rates will likely increase if fitness classes will be made more accessible and affordable. In your email, cite several feasible proposals like giving discounted rates to people who will sign up by groups or slashing 30 percent off on a person's fee if he were referred by someone who's already participating in classes.