The Relationship Between Freelancing & Bonbons

“You’re a freelance writer in Hawai‘i? Really?!” I hear this occasionally and realize that what I do sounds pretty plush to people who aren’t freelancers.

I get it. They like thinking about not having to get up early to clock in at a non-dream-job. I can sleep in and wear what I want every day, they are thinking. And on top of all that, HAWAI‘I, where the crystal clear ocean is warm like a bathtub, and sea turtles swim lazily alongside you, and there are gorgeous sunsets. Leslie Lang, Freelance Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, Hawaii

Some of that is true. But other freelance writers understand how this lifestyle really works. Let’s look at some of those assumptions.

Sleeping late!

I could sleep in but I usually don’t, because I’m running a business here. I keep fairly normal business hours most of the time, because that’s what works for me. The regular hours keep me sane – I don’t have to worry about when my work is going to get done. And it works, too, because there are people I need to interact with, and most of them are available during regular business hours. Of course, there is some flexibility, though, and if I were feeling a little under the weather, I could sleep an hour or two later and make it up on the other end without needing to get anybody’s permission.

Working in pajamas!

I don’t do that; I get dressed. When I switch on my business head, I don’t want to look down and see pajamas. Pajamas say bedtime, not “book contract.”

Time off whenever you want!

Yes, I can take time off and help chaperone a school field trip, or see a friend who’s suddenly in town on a weekday. But then I usually make up the time later, because I keep my work calendar comfortably full. Many weeks I work more than someone who clocks in from 8 to 5 (does that surprise you?). I’m trying to change that.

Writing when the muse strikes!

No. Writing when the assignment needs to get done.

Beach! Ocean! Sunsets! 
Leslie Lang, Freelance Writer, Ghostwriter, Content Marketing, Hawaii

There are days when I come into my office in the morning and flip on the light, work without hardly leaving my chair except to flip the light off a little later when it’s bright outside, and then work until the sun has meandered off and I need to turn on the light again. Successful freelancing takes a lot of work, and unlike an employee, a freelancer handles everything. Not just the work, but also obtaining, invoicing for and collecting for the work, and the accounting and the taxes and the retirement plan and the IT and the website and the marketing and the purchasing and the social media and the public relations and paying for the medical/dental coverage. I really just want to write, but it doesn’t work that way. A friend of mine lists herself on Facebook as her company’s CEO & Janitor. True.

Bottom line? I love freelancing and I like doing it here in Hawai‘i. I like having some flexibility, but this is a real business I’m running here and I work hard. I’m tired at the end of my workday. No bonbons are being consumed, and if you call me you will not hear Oprah’s voice coming from a TV in the background.

I should get out and enjoy that ocean and the sunsets (or sunrises) more. Right now, though, you know: I’ve got work to do.

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Hawaii Content Marketing & Rock Stars

Do you know that buzz phrase “content marketing?” It’s what businesses are calling the content they hire us writers to provide. Here’s the best definition of content marketing that I’ve come across; it’s from the Content Marketing Institute:

Traditional marketing and advertising is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content Marketing is showing the world that you are one. – Robert Rose

Content marketing is a focus for me, and much of the content marketing I do is related to Hawaii, where I live and work. I know Hawaii well, and my journalism background and years as a freelance writer makes it easy for me to research and write (or ghostwrite) about just about anything – whether it’s related to Hawai‘i’s business, travel, culture, people, or something else.

I don’t have links to many of my articles on my website right now, so I am compiling a list here. This is just a small number of the many and varied magazine articles, books and blog posts I’ve written for various businesses, corporations, hotels and media outlets in Hawaii and elsewhere.

On Business & Current Affairs:

Hawaii Travel

Hawaii Culture

Hawaii People

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Books on Writing

I guess it’s no surprise there are so many books about writing. We writers need something to write about, and some of us write about writing.

Writing is a craft that I continually work on. In college I majored in journalism, and since then I have continued to take writing classes (both in person and online), participate in professional writers’ groups and online forums, and sometimes in local writers groups — and I also read how other people have succeeded as writers. How they do it. Their tips.

They’re just like us, most of those other writers. We’re all just people sitting in front of a yellow pad of paper or a laptop, starting with a blank screen and a head full of ideas. Reading over the years about how some people have accomplished what they’ve done has helped me set goals for my own writing, and reach high.

I could read about writing until the cows come home. (“What cows?” asked my then-four-year-old with a puzzled look, once, when I used that expression.) Though it’s best to put down the books and hit the keyboard from time to time.

Here are just some of the writing books on my shelves, which I’ve loosely grouped into categories here. I have learned from or been inspired by many of these.

BUSINESS

Early on I realized that you are only a hobbyist, and will likely get nowhere as a professional freelance writer, until you accept that it’s a business and you need to be businesslike (in setting goals, where you focus your efforts, calculating your overhead and knowing how much to charge, protecting your copyrights, handling accounting, paying taxes and much more). Some creative sorts have to really force themselves to buckle down and learn the business aspect of being a self-employed writer. Here are some books that can help:

  • The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing, ed. by Timothy Harper
  • This Business of Writing, by Gregg Levoy
  • Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, by Jenna Glazer
  • Six-Figure Freelancing, by Kelly James-Enger
BY WRITERS ABOUT WRITING
I don’t know how to group these books, some of which inspired and convinced me I could quit the day job and live happily as a writer (they were right!):
  • Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
  • The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
  • If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland
  • Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
  • Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Living the Writer’s Life, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Thunder and Lightning, Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
  • Making a Literary Life, by Carolyn See
  • On Writing, by Stephen King
  • No Mentor But Myself: Jack London on Writing and Writers, ed. by Dale L. Walker and Jeanne Campbell Reesman
FICTION/NOVEL WRITING
What pondering these titles from my bookshelf tells me is that I have long wanted to delve more into fiction and novel-writing. But I knew that already.
  • On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner
  • On Teaching and Writing Fiction, by Wallace Stegner
  • The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner
  • Writing the Novel, by Lawrence Block
  • Writing Fiction, by Janet Burroway
  • How to Write a Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen
  • The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, ed. by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron and the editors of Writer’s Digest

MAGAZINE/NEWSPAPER WRITING
I have done an awful lot of this. I started out, long ago, writing an occasional freelance piece for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and then got a regular freelance gig working for Hilo’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, where I wrote features and entertainment articles every week. That was terrific in teaching me how to just sit down and do it. When I had several articles due each week, I also got over my reticence about calling people to ask questions. That was worth it all right there.

After that I started writing for magazines. More interesting, more in-depth, more time for craft. Yet it doesn’t always pay enough to pay the bills. There are a few people who only write for national magazines and make a good living, but you cannot count on that these days. If magazine freelancing is your plan, you’d better start out with some other income, too.

  • The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, by William E. Blundell
  • Writing for Story, by Jon Franklin
  • Creative Nonfiction, by Philip Gerard
  • Story, by Robert McKee
  • Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, ed. by Jean Fredette
  • You Can Write a Column, by Monica McCabe Cordoza
  • The Renegade Writer, by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  • Travel Writing, See the World, Sell the Story, by L. Peat O’Neil
  • Literary Journalism, ed. by Norman Sims and Mark Kramer
MEMOIR
  • Living to Tell the Tale, A Guide to Writing Memoir, by Jane Taylor McDonnell
  • Inventing the Truth, the Art and Craft of Memoir, ed. by William Zinsser
ON WRITERS
It’s aways fun to read how other writers do what they do. Computer? Typewriter? Pencil and pen? Schedules? Rituals? Isabel Allende always starts writing a new novel on January 8th, because that’s the date she started her very successful (and wonderful) novel House of the Spirits. (It’s one of my favorites.)
  • Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from the New York Times
  • The Writer on Her Work, by Janet Sternberg
  • The New New Journalism, ed. by Robert S. Boynton
COPYWRITING
Some of my work falls under the category of copywriting. These books were somewhat interesting as I started out writing for businesses, but I’ve found that I figured out a lot of it by myself, along the way. The Well-Fed Writer is currently a bible to some copywriters.
  • The $100,000 Writer, by Nancy Flynn
  • The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman
  • Secrets of a Freelance Writer, by Bob Bly
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook, by Bob Bly
RADIO
This is one of the few books from my long-ago college journalism days that I’ve kept. I have worked in public (and commercial) radio a little bit, and really enjoyed it. I keep the book in case I want to get back into it one day. Cool book.
  • Telling the Story, the National Public Radio Guide to Radio Journalism
LASTLY
And, my favorite title of all:
  • Too Lazy To Work, Too Nervous to Steal: How to have a great life as a freelance writer, by John Clausen

Image © Tanjaru | Dreamstime.com

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Why I’m Bad At Scheduling Meetings

calendar

Wow, this article, which my Twitter friend Pierre Omidyar posted about today,* really resonated with me.

It’s called:

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

and it’s by Paul Graham, and it starts like this:

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

 

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started….

[The bold is mine.]

Read the rest here. It’s really a good read.

This article made me sit up straight. It sounded in my head like the loudest tuning fork. I never thought about it these words, but it’s so true. Needing to schedule a meeting can throw off the rest of my work day. It felt comfortable and reassuring to see someone else describe something I’ve often struggled with.

Now: I hesitate to post this because I don’t want you to think for a second that I don’t want to meet with you. If you have a potential writing project and would like to sit and chat about it with me, I would be happy to meet with you. It’s part of the job and I’m happy to do it.

I’m good at making time away from my desk useful — and everybody needs to step away from the desk, out into the world and get things done from time to time.

But I was just so interested in this article and wanted to share it. If you’re a writer or other creative type who needs hours at a time to get anything done, you will understand this!

* Pierre Omidyar is my friend in the same way that anybody can follow Oprah on Twitter. 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theogeo/ / CC BY 2.0

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Writer/Editorial Consultant

One of my specialties is that I write for businesses.

typewriterkeys1

Here’s what you’d find if you read my Copywriting page:

These days it’s especially important that your business stands out. That it gets noticed. How do you make that happen?

We work together and make sure your potential clients know your story.

When there are two comparable brands of the same product available, which one do people buy? They buy from the company whose name they remember. The company they know something about.

• The one whose products win awards.

• The one whose president builds Habitat for Humanity homes on weekends.

• The one whose product came about because Grandma won a ribbon at the County Fair when she was a girl.

Let’s tell your story – in whatever way makes sense for your particular business. I can help you figure that out.

As a writer and editorial consultant, I help with your written communications.

I work with some clients occasionally, as needed for a specific project, and others on an ongoing basis. My clients set the pace: Some know exactly what they want. With others, we brainstorm together to find the right mix of keeping their company name out there, showing their products in the best light and catching people’s attention.

Perhaps you haven’t been sending out press releases to announce new happenings with your products, your industry and your employees, and consequently your company name isn’t in the forefront of people’s minds as it could be. I can help you clarify your message, figure out what needs to be written, as well as when and how, and get it done.

Maybe you want to resurrect or start up a newsletter in order to be in better touch with your clients. I can help with that. Do you need:

·      Fresher website copy?

·      A letter to go out to your customers/clients?

·      A media kit?

·      An employee manual?

·      A blog?

May I ghostwrite a newspaper or trade magazine article for you and make sure it gets into the right editor’s hands?

·      Need help crafting a speech?

·      What about a brochure or some other written material?

Because I’ve been doing this for some years now, I have lots of ideas and a good sense of what works and how to do it.

In addition, one of my strengths is taking information and asking the right questions until the details and especially the significance – the importance – are clear to everybody else, too.

It means you may have to answer a lot of questions at first, but I am good at pinpointing the questions that need to be asked and won’t waste your time. And as I get to know your company better over time, our work together will become even more powerful.

One of my long-time clients hired me as a result of Honolulu magazine assigning me to write about his business. After that article appeared, he called me and said that in all the articles that had been written about his business over the years, no one had ever gotten his story just right like I did.

Yet all I did was listen. I didn’t assume which were the important aspects of his story; I listened to what he told me was important, and I shaped the article around that.

I don’t write about his business for magazines anymore; now I write about his business for him. We’ve been working together now for years.

If you could use help with your business’s written materials – and telling your stories clearly and effectively – I’d be happy to discuss how we might work together.

Please call me at 808 964-1494, or email me at leslie AT leslielang.com.

If you know of someone with a business that might need a writer, or your neighbor is a marketing person, or your sister-in-law is a decision maker in a small company, would you please pass on my info? I appreciate people spreading the word.

Connect me with someone needing a business writer/editor and I’ll get you in the next big movie. You know, if I can. Like, if pigs started flying and big movie producers started Twittering with me and stuff  like that.

But let people know about my business and I’d appreciate it, anyway.

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What Do Andy Bumatai & Imiloa Astronomy Center Have in Common?

We are about to announce the winners at our On The Cheap websites. We had several contests — 14 in all — to celebrate our big launch. Did you enter?

Andy Bumatai
Andy Bumatai

Andy Bumatai is choosing names out of a hat for the Honolulu On The Cheap contests, and he’s doing it live and on the air today. Watch it at 1 p.m. HST; it will also be posted on The Andy Bumatai Show’s website after it airs.

Tomorrow our good friends at Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center are going to pick winners for our Big Island On The Cheap contests.

Watch our sites to see who won.

And then I’ll come back and tell you some of the other writing jobs I’m working on. There’s lots going on — It’s truly never a dull moment around here!

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Our “On The Cheap” Sites To Launch 3/10

Leslie: “Oh, nothing much; what’s new with you?”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:
Leslie Lang
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
808 964-1494
Twitter: @LeslieLang  

Kris Bordessa
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
530 295-0887
Twitter: @KBordessa

“On The Cheap” Websites Highlight Best Bargains on the Big Island and in Honolulu

Hilo, HI – March 6, 2009 – Tuesday, March 10th is the official launch of two new online sites – Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap – which are dedicated to bringing Big Island and O‘ahu residents and visitors up-to-the-minute information on free, discount and cheap things to do and other local deals.

Motivated by the current coupon-clipping climate, Big Island writer Leslie Lang and former Hawai‘i writer Kris Bordessa started the websites, which are updated most weekdays, to help Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors get out and about “on the cheap.”

To celebrate the sites’ launch, both Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are having daily contests for the first week – or more – starting March 10th. “We’re all about deals, so we’re getting off to a good start by giving away all sorts of great Hawai‘i-related gifts,” says Lang. “Chuck Moore hula girl t-shirts, Macario photographic prints, locally created ceramics from the Hilo art gallery High Fire Hawai‘i, some Hawai‘i-related books, a gorgeous woodblock print donated by Volcano Artist Margaret Barnaby and there will be some other surprises, too.”

In addition, Big Island On The Cheap.com is offering printable, discount coupons to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Honolulu On The Cheap.com is offering discount coupons to the Waikiki Aquarium. “We are excited to promote both of these great attractions that we ourselves enjoy,” says Bordessa, “and also honored that they were so enthusiastic about offering support to our new venture.”

Over the past several weeks, thrifty readers of Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap have learned about free Hawaiian music concerts, yoga classes, history lectures and even an Avocado Festival. That’s in addition to dozens of deals on everything from malassadas and sub sandwiches to hotel rooms.

“Everyone—including us—is looking for deals right now,” says Lang. “And they’re out there. We’re just trying to make it easy for people to find them.”

Listen for Leslie Lang on the radio Tuesday morning; she’ll be discussing the websites and their official launch at 8:05 a.m. on the Big Island’s Mynah Bird show, which is at KHBC/92.7 FM and KONA FM at 92.1 FM.

Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are part of a rapidly growing network of independently owned and operated “On The Cheap” sites, which are launching nationwide on March 10. A complete list and links to Cities On The Cheap websites are available here.

About Leslie Lang
Leslie Lang is a Big Island–based freelance writer who works as an editorial consultant (writing press releases, newsletter items, blogs, speeches, reports and more for businesses), as well as a freelance magazine writer and book author who specializes in writing about Hawai‘i. She blogs at http://blog.leslielang.com.

About Kris Bordessa
Kris Bordessa, formerly of Hawai‘i and now living in California’s Gold Country (where she also runs Gold Country On The Cheap) is the author of several books and writes regularly for national magazines about family travel.

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Honolulu On The Cheap

Here goes: A “soft launch” of my new project!

I’ll bring out the balloons and party streamers later soon, but for now, I’ll just tell you: 

I’ve launched a new website. It’s called Honolulu On The Cheap, and it’s all about cheap, discounted and free things to do in Honolulu and on O‘ahu in general. It will be useful, I think, to both visitors and residents; I keep both groups in mind as I select what to post about.

I’ve just started putting up copy there, and here’s a sampling of what I’ve got up so far:

• A printable coupon for Jamba Juice’s $1 deal on its oatmeal with real fruit and fresh brown sugar crumble (good at any participating Jamba Juice)

• Free kids’ workshops at Home Depot on the first Saturday of every month (they make a project and even get a free, kid sized, orange Home Depot apron to take home)

• Where you can stay in Waikiki for only $79/night (click here for the answer)

• And how to get a free ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins

Other content, including articles, interviews and even downloadable “special reports” having to do with Honolulu On The Cheap, is coming soon.

This site is part of a new, nationwide network on “of the cheap” city websites, and you can see the ones that are live on the left sidebar of my website. More are in the works. Each is independently owned and operated (kind of like a Dunkin’ Donuts) but we are collaborating, sharing and cooperating as a network.

I also just signed up for Twitter. I’ve not been interested in the Twitter phenomenon and never thought I’d say that! However, I can see how it can be useful to promoting my site. If you’d like to follow me, I’m “LeslieLang.” If you do, I promise to spare you news of me brushing my teeth or stopping to fill up the car with gas.

I’d love to hear what you think about honoluluonthecheap.com! And let me know if you hear of anything I might want to feature there.

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Hamakua Springs Blogging Tidbits

One of my favorite jobs is managing the blog Ha Ha Ha! over at Hamakua Springs Country Farms, and this week I got to write a couple posts that I especially enjoying delving into.

The first was about Brudda Skibs, who recently participated in a sustainability festival Hamakua Springs owner Richard Ha helped coordinate. What an incredible person. Skibs and the crew he’s attracted over the years volunteer their time and labor to clean up Big Island lands near the ocean and turn them into beautiful parks. There is so much more to his story than just that, though. He is really making a difference.

Watch the video at that post and you can see right into his heart. 

The other post was on the Pacific Century Fellows, a group of up-and-coming business leaders who visited the Big Island (and Hamakua Springs) as a part of their year-long program. Interesting people, and ones we’ll all be hearing about in the news, I suspect, in years to come.

In the course of researching that post, I learned a couple things that didn’t make it into the story: Such as that, in exploring the issues and challenges in areas as diverse as the criminal justice system, education, agriculture, the military and many others, they started one of their days in a prison block, and on another day were flown out to an aircraft carrier.

The things I learn as a freelance writer! It keeps life interesting.

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Wired.com Article: Managing Your Freelance Time

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article Diary of a Self-Help Dropout: Flirting With the 4-Hour Workweek by Chris Hardwick, which is posted at wired.com. 

It’s about a busy freelancer who checks out three popular time-management systems and tries to apply them to his life. It’s a well-written and fun read, especially if you’re a busy freelancer yourself.

He writes:

…My days are like eBay shipments: a few tangible things and a whole lot of packing peanuts. I obviously need help being the boss of me. So I decided to try an experiment: I’d spend two weeks absorbing, in succession, three well-known productivity systems and see if I could find one that worked for those of us who count income in 1099s instead of W-2s. I already owned David Allen’s Getting Things Done; Gina Trapani, editor of the blog Lifehacker, further recommended Julie Morgenstern’s Never Check E-Mail in the Morning and Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. That made three, and three examples is all you need for a magazine article….

Go have a look!

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