Finding the best artist for the job

If you’re a content manager or creative director in charge or sourcing creative talent for work in your brand, you’re familiar with the complicated process of finding the right artist for the job. It can be hard! But it’s not impossible. And best of all, it doesn’t have to cost a lot. 

Through many years of doing just this, I have developed some tried and true methods of getting the most out of your artist shopping to ensure that you’re able to pair the right artist with the right job. 

Finding the right creative talent for brand work

When it comes to finding talent, there are several ways you can do this, whether you’re a business owner or a content manager:

Network with local creators. Artists and writers are everywhere if you know where to look! You may be able to find freelancers working in shared workspaces or working for other content managers, website designers, and marketing professionals. (Networking isn’t for everyone, but if you are a social person, this is a great start!)

Online networking via LinkedIn. Putting out a call for artists and creative talent on LinkedIn can be a good starting point if you’ve already networked with other professionals in your field. These connections will see your request and be able to put you into contact with others. If you’ve been a creative yourself, you may also have met writers and creatives in other business ventures who may be interested in working for you, or at the very least, connecting you with other contacts in their field. 

Work with an agency. My personal favorite method of finding creatives is working with an agency. Most cities have creative agencies that pre-vet their creatives, have dedicated teams trained to help you find the appropriate talent, and offer simple methods of billing that make it a lot easier for your accounting team to keep track of payment. This method will also be your best bet if you’re a small business owner and want to leave the management of the creatives themselves up to someone else. 

Some people choose to find creative talent via online gig sites, but this is not my preference. Gig sites (think Fiverr, Freelancer, and Upwork) make it difficult to develop relationships with creatives, strategically underpay them, and take large cuts of the funds for themselves. I’ve also gotten really terrible work out of Fiverr and Freelancer, probably because of the poor pay. I would rather spend $300 on an article written by a professional and have it be good enough to put live after a quick read-through than spend $100 on an article through Fiverr and have to rewrite the whole thing in order to put it on my site. (The truth is, I stopped working with Fiverr after this happened to me several times. I was working harder than I had been before because the articles I was receiving were of such low quality!)

Personally, I appreciate working with professionals who I can communicate with directly, who are appropriately compensated for their work, and who are willing to develop a relationship with my brand. I find that better work comes from creatives that feel appreciated, and the key to that is communication and compensation! 

Hire for a single small job first

When I hire new creative talent, I seldom sign them for more than a single small project to begin. This is a matter of self-preservation as a content manager, because I can never be sure whether the new creative will work well with me and my team, whether they’ll fully understand the brand, or whether the rest of the team will like their work. This makes it a lot easier to part ways with an artist after the first project, if it doesn’t go well, without having to have any complicated “you’re fired” conversations. As a non-confrontational person, I prefer to avoid those at all costs! (Working with an agency also makes this easier as you can convey the message via your rep and allow them to handle the difficult conversations.) 

To begin, I present each new hire with educational materials during a get-to-know-you meeting. Most often, these are conducted via phone call as the benefit of working with offsite freelancers is that they may be located anywhere. (This is especially helpful if you want New York or Los Angeles talent but you’re located in the Midwest, for example.) During these phone calls, I give a brief presentation (pre-written to avoid stumbling or stage fright!) about the brand and the project that I’ve hired them for, and then I allow them the opportunity to ask me questions. Open communication is the best way to get good content from a freelancer as they need to learn about your brand in order to present accurate information in an appropriate voice for your customer base. 

In addition to a phone call, it’s important to provide your new hire with all of the detailed information they will need to understand your brand and the assignment. 

How have you sourced talent for your creative projects in the past? 

Have you tried the single project method? How has that worked for you?

Camp Nanowrimo it is!

Well, the quarantine has gotten to me, and I guess that means I’m going to hunker down and write for the month of April.

My Camp Nanowrimo profile for those who want to keep track of my progress.

I’m working on a story that first hatched in my brain 13 months ago, but it arrived as the “key” to a problem I’ve been contemplating for many, many years. This story is “the one” that answers the problems posed by many of the other stories I’ve already written (at least in part) and that’s why it’s so important to the whole.

However, I have no intention of revealing my secrets just yet because this story is merely mapped but not really written. And I don’t know about you other writers, but I myself find that the more I talk about a story the more absurd it sounds. Whenever I tell someone what I’m writing, I feel like I would rather crawl into a hole than explain the plot, which I suppose is why we develop pitches and sluglines. It’s really damn difficult to condense an epic novel into a bite-sized, digestible description for a person who ultimately may never read the story at all.

So instead, here is a clue:

An illustration I found on the internet that provides the perfect teaser to my tale

Please feel free to follow along! Or, if you’d like, support me on my Patreon. Middle tier and above actually gets you some excerpts which I would love to share! The story speaks for itself a lot better than I can speak for it.

I’m on Patreon now and I’m thinking about the future

Here we are, in uncertain times, times which already struck for me shortly before the virus swept in, full swing, to our country’s workforce. But uncertain times are challenges, not necessarily the end of everything. I don’t know about you, but right now I’m still finding myself to be pretty excited about the future and looking forward to the new things that are to come for me. And of course, I’m making plans.

Get the link to my Patreon profile

I set up my Patreon profile a few months ago, back when I was traveling in New York and then Alaska. Things felt a little frustrating then, as if I was in exile from my life, and I needed some hope and inspiration. Plus I was holed up with one of my best friends who always inspires me and gets me excited about creating! When we were there, I had things in the works that I wanted to look forward to and get help with. Now, with everyone I know in quarantine here at home, I can’t help but notice that the times are similar to what I felt during that month of isolation which wasn’t so very long ago. For me, the feelings that are coming to the forefront are those of hope and excitement about the opportunities that these troubled times will bring, not just at a personal level, but at a national one.

Yesterday a friend and I chatted about what life-after-coronavirus might be like, how this situation will highlight even more systemic issues in our government that will need to be addressed and changed after the event. I think workplaces will make changes, markets will make changes, businesses will diversify, and more, to make sure that they are able to stay afloat in times like these, times which are inevitabilities.

And on a more personal level, I too am thinking about ways I can diversify my talents and work. But even more than that, I’m thinking that life has knocked me down a few too many times in the past few months (even years!) and I have not answered its challenge. Now, I will.

Making plans for the future

I’ve set up my Patreon profile and I’m asking for supporters even though beside so many artistic and inspiring friends, I feel unworthy. The truth is, these artists and creatives in my life have been inspiring to me and provided me with the much-needed push that has made me want more for myself.

I want to share some of the things I’ve been working on, but I’m going to encourage you to check out Patreon to see them. I stand by the belief that you shouldn’t announce all of your plans to the public, but then again, I am quite a secretive person at times, I’ve been told. (I usually just refer to it as “thinking deeply” but, we can call it secretive if you want.)

Meanwhile, I do also encourage you to follow and support some of my favorite artists who are out there working hard already. Please feel free to check out my profile too to learn more about what I’m working on and how you can help me make it happen.

Tom Day Art

Digital portraits

Patreon profile

Instagram

Art by Tom Day

Hoosier Queen KP and Queenspirit Magazine

Handcrafted jewelry, art magazine, and more: Korie is a woman of all trades!

Patreon profile

QueenSpirit Magazine on Instagram

Hoosier Queen KP on Instagram

Korie with the latest issue of QueenSpirit Magazine

CinemaRolls Podcast

Important links to access the podcast

Patreon profile

Sarah and Sarah

 

The coronavirus has made us a remote working world: Remote working tips and tricks

This coronavirus scare has half the business world working from home, and for many people, that’s an entirely new experience. I remember my first WFH position back in 2012. It took me a while to get into a groove of remote work that made me feel comfortable. Questions I asked myself when I first started to work remotely were:

  • How can I inspire my boss’s trust so they know I’m actually working and not just screwing around at home?
  • How much work do I have to do to prove myself?
  • How do I keep myself motivated when I’m sitting in my own living room?
  • Is it okay to watch TV and work at the same time?
  • What about working in pajamas?

There were about a thousand questions in my mind, these being just a few. As an introvert, I enjoyed the prospect of being at home and instead of having to get up, get dressed, and go sit in some cold office, but as a social person, I also worried about myself having a lack of community. Now that I’ve been working remotely for the better part of the past 8 years, I can provide a much clearer picture of what a day in the life of a remote employee actually looks like, as well as some tips for how to ensure optimal productivity and a sense of accomplishment. 

What does a workday look like for a remote employee?

Depending on your job type, you may have a specific start time where you have to be clocked in and begin working. No matter what time that is, your life is automatically going to be a bit easier because you won’t have to factor in your getting ready or commuting time. That is easily my favorite part of the remote working experience. Here’s an example work day for me:

7:30 – 8:00am: Wake up, take my time getting out of bed, make my morning cup of coffee, cook some breakfast that features protein and veggies (my favorite: poached eggs, sauteed kale and mushrooms, and a carb like gluten-free toast, buckwheat, or rice), get my laptop out and start working through my morning emails. 

8:00-9:30am: Thankfully at my most recent job, no one would ever schedule meetings before 9:30am because they were all commuting into Manhattan. I always took advantage of that window of time to get into my own work. Right after coffee and breakfast, I’m at my sharpest, so this is a great time to do some writing. For me, that often includes preparing creative briefs for important projects, writing corporate communications for my role as a senior-level copywriter, copyediting projects that other writers have submitted to me, etc.  

9:30-11:00am: On some days, this is the time for company meetings, and I often schedule my meetings for this window on other days as well. Online conference calls are convenient and easy to do at this time of day because I’ve already eaten and had some coffee, and I’ve already been productive this morning. I am not a huge fan of video conferencing, and most companies I’ve worked for don’t require them, but if they are required, two hours into my day is time enough to get dressed and do hair and makeup. (I generally keep it pretty simple anyway.) On days when I don’t have meetings, I use this window of time to pack up some simple snacks into a lunch box and head out to the local coffee shop. 

This is one of my most important tips for remote workers: Find a space where other people are working remotely, whether that’s a coffee shop or a shared workspace. For me, it’s Indie Coffee Roasters, a clean and modern space in downtown Carmel, IN where lots of professionals gather daily to drink exceptionally delicious coffee! It can be so helpful to have a space where you can go, see and be seen, and engage in a little social banter on occasion. I prefer to sit up at the counter where socializing can happen, but many professionals like to sit at tables to be a little more isolated from socializing but still near other people. Now that I’ve had time to become accustomed to remote working, I am able to be in a public place and still be productive, but it may take time for newbies to work up to this. 

Obviously in our current circumstances, social working spaces are not appropriate options at this time. However, I highly recommend setting aside time to have FaceTime or Marco Polo chats with your friends to get your daily social fix.

11:00-12:30am: This is the window of time when I’ve first arrived at the coffee shop and I usually spend a few minutes socializing with friends. While many people who work in offices have already had some social time in their day, I’ve already been working for 3+ hours and this is my first socializing opportunity. 

12:30-4:30pm: During this final period of the day, I usually stay at the coffee shop, have a working lunch where I snack on the food I brought with me, and finish the rest of my required work for the day. 

When I close my laptop at the end of my time at the coffee shop, I usually keep it closed for the remainder of the day, which is how I manage my work-life balance. I find it to be important to keep the separation in place so I don’t find myself tempted to work evenings just because I’m “in the office” which doubles as my home. 

Some questions about remote working

Should I set up a home office?

Personally, having a home office space has never worked for me. I like working right in the center of the action, but that works for me because I’ve lived in a home where I was the only remote worker and I’ve lived completely alone. This is something that is up to each individual to try out. Some people may need a door they can close to cut off the rest of the world while they work, while others, like me, may need to simply leave the house and go out in public to work. 

How do I handle workplace questions? How can I avoid miscommunication? 

Open communication is important in any workplace, but especially for remote workers. In order to ensure that I have a good relationship with my coworkers, I spend several weeks per year working in the office for face-to-face meetings with my team. This may not be an option for everyone, so in cases where you can’t work in the office, I recommend frequent check-ins and at least one phone call a week talking with critical coworkers to build relationships with them. When in doubt, pick up the phone. Verbal communications will clarify a lot of confusion that comes from text/IM communication.  

How do I avoid distractions?

Distractions will be an issue when you’re working from home because you don’t have the fear that your boss is looking over your shoulder to get you back on task. However, personal integrity and self-regulation is a quality that you will have to develop if you want to be a trusted remote worker. It takes time to work up to this, but it’s important to do it. 

What should I do when I feel unproductive or unmotivated?

This is tough! I personally only feel unproductive or unmotivated when I’m doing a job a don’t like, and this is something I avoid at all costs! I love being productive and accomplishing things. However, when these feelings do occasionally hit, I usually make a hard stop for 15 minutes and try one of these tactics:

  • Take a walk
  • Eat a nutritious snack
  • Meditate
  • Change your work location 
  • Do something that engages a different part of my brain, like draw a doodle or read a book for a few minutes

How do I maintain a work-life balance?

As I mentioned earlier, I find it important to have a hard start and stop on my workday. That, of course, doesn’t mean I would make myself unavailable in an emergency. (As the remote employee in a team of in-house employees, I would often get called upon to handle a situation that would arise while everyone else is on public transportation just after a workday ends and I’m the only one with access to the computer!) However, for personal sanity, it’s important to have a hard stop for yourself so you can shift gears into your personal life. I also enjoy working from a coffee shop or remote working location so I can have the opportunity for a commute home to decompress. 

And the questions from the top

How can I inspire my boss’s trust so they know I’m actually working and not just screwing around at home?

First of all, a good boss will not make you feel micromanaged, so hopefully, this is a personal concern and not one that has been put on you by the person you work for. My best advice for this is to simply do your work and do it well, meet deadlines, and communicate with your coworkers and managers whenever relevant. The best way to inspire trust is to be trustworthy!

How much work do I have to do to prove myself?

This same concern should be addressed by the above question. If you really feel that you have to prove yourself constantly, you may need to assess whether your working environment is healthy for you. But that’s a different topic entirely! 

How do I keep myself motivated when I’m sitting in my own living room? 

I believe this question was also addressed above. Motivation is self-made, but taking breaks also helps!

Is it okay to watch TV and work at the same time?

My gut says no. If you really want to be productive and complete quality work, you’ve got to keep yourself focused. Besides, if you have a TV show you’re really invested in, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you watch it without the distraction of responsibility. 

What about working in pajamas?

This is up to each person individually, but for me personally, I can never wear sweatpants and get work done. I believe in actually showing up for work, and for me, that involves wearing pants. But, you should do what makes you feel good and productive.

What other questions do you have about the remote working experience that I might be able to help with? Drop them below!

Writing well as a business professional: Is corporate writing coaching a good choice for your business?

Have you ever hit send on an email only to notice a glaring typo?

Has anyone ever embarrassingly replied to one of your emails to say that they didn’t understand what you were trying to say?

Have you ever received a business email that didn’t make sense to you because of typos or poorly phrased sentences?

Professional communications are incredibly important in an internet-run world. Business people are expected to see and respond to messages quickly and efficiently, but that can leave way too much room for errors. In a world where we often respond quickly with text messages to our friends and family, it is possible to take that casually conversational style into the business realm where it just isn’t quite as welcome. 

Giving your employees the tools they need to succeed

If you own or manage a brand, it’s in your best interest to ensure that your team is communicating effectively with each other and especially with your clients. It’s incredibly important to your business’s success that your employees are representing your business in a professional manner. 

The truth is though, many business professionals are great at what they do, but that doesn’t mean they are great at writing! Even if your employees are never going to be “professional writers” in the traditional sense, writing coaching can help them to become more confident as writers so that they can communicate with clients, vendors, and team members with clarity and ease. 

Corporate writing coaching for businesses

I love helping business professionals succeed, and one of the ways I can offer assistance is through corporate writing coaching. How does this work? As a brand owner or manager, you can offer your employees an opportunity for writing education, including group or one-on-one training, depending on the number of employees interested in the program and level of training that each individual needs. 

Contact me directly at CrystalLynn23@gmail.com to learn more about what writing coaching entails, see an outline of a course syllabus, and get a quote for your brand.

Good writing and clear communication can be the difference between business failure and business success! Help ensure that your business and employees are set to succeed. 

Upward Mobility in a Writing Career: How Does that Work?!

Writers can never truly advance in their careers, did you know that? We can ask for higher rates, but ultimately we still have to produce every single thing that we get paid for. In other words, if we want to advance in our careers by making more money, we still have to write more in order to make that happen. Does that make you frustrated as a writer? It frustrates me, that’s for sure! I’ve been a professional writer for 13 years, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered the possibility for upward mobility in my chosen career through a career in content management.

In the time that I’ve written professionally, I’ve produced so many pages of content that I couldn’t even begin to count. This content has come in the form of entire websites, web pages, blog posts, learning articles, white papers, magazine articles, short stories, essays, social media posts, media scripts, and more. There is a direct correlation between material produced and hours worked, which can be a frustrating thing for writers. We need more time in the day if we want to create more work and thus make more money.

So the question becomes this: What is the workaround?

Being a writer can be a frustrating career path. Even as your skill improves, it can be difficult to increase your rates based upon your experience alone, and the upward mobility of the career path is not as clearly laid out as many other career fields. Writers are often self-made, many of them without formal education in their specific field, making it difficult for them to claim expertise and charge higher rates. Additionally, it can be discouraging for writers to have to constantly create content in order to be paid, when other fields offer professionals the opportunity to oversee work being done and manage direct reports as they advance in their career. Content management is a relatively new role that offers a different option for writers who wish to advance in their field. 

A content manager is similar to an editor in that they’re in control of the quality of the content and they manage its creation and presentation. Instead of doing this for a printed publication like a magazine they do it for a digital one: a website. 

If you’re a professional writer interested in advancing to a role that is more managerial in nature and requires you to produce less while making more money, a content management or content strategist role might be the one for you. There are things you can do within your writing career to begin preparing you for this shift, making it possible for you to qualify for a new role, whether within the company where you already work, at a different company, or on a contract as a freelancer. 

Most writers, whether they realize it or not, actually perform some of the functions of a content manager already. Some of these tasks may include:

  • Planning a content calendar for articles, social media posts, blog posts, etc. 
  • Auditing existing content to ensure that details are up to date
  • Conducting light keyword research for SEO
  • Managing content projects that require additional artists (for example, white papers which are downloadable PDFs and often have to be laid out professionally after the content is written.)

If you’re doing any of these tasks in your job already, you can easily add light content management to your skillset on your resume. If you’re hoping to find yourself in a content management role full time, you should begin taking on some additional content management tasks and have a conversation with your current manager about your career goals. Even if your ultimate career goal is to become a content manager working for a different company, you can often use your current role as a learning experience, taking on extra tasks to build up your resume in the area where your interests lie. 

Need advice? I would love to help!