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Friday, September 2, 2016

How to Get Focused and Actually Work Less

Hey there. Roy Furr here, at the reins of The Writer's Life again, with a secret I just recently discovered to help me use my time smarter.

The big benefit to this – to using my time smarter – is that I can spend fewer hours of my day focused on work while earning more.

That's something you want, I'd guess.

I mean, who doesn't want to work less and earn more?!

In order for this to make sense, though, I have to reveal a dirty little secret about my past.

You see, in 7th grade, I failed my first class.

I was used to getting pretty good grades all through elementary school. Most of the teachers considered me a "smart kid."

But I failed 7th grade Spanish. Mind you, it's not because I couldn't learn Spanish. I didn't have a language deficiency that prevented me from picking up anything besides English. I even went to class all the time.

But there was a problem.

I wasn't excited about it. I don't know what it was that made me not excited, but I sure wasn't. So I didn't get into it. I didn't do my homework. I didn't pay as much attention in class. I didn't do what it took to pass – much less get a good grade.

And this was the start of a pattern.

Just about every semester, I failed a class. Even when I got B's and A's in my other classes. It was almost like I sat down at the beginning of each semester and said, "I'm going to do well in all my classes, except I'm going to fail this one."

This went on until my freshman year of college. I did well in just about everything except that one class per semester.

Then my tuition bill shocked me into reality. I'd have to get this in check. I'd have to learn how to pass and even excel at those classes I'd been previously failing.

So I got better organized. I learned what it took to make sure I didn't fail. I put in the time and effort to make sure I passed – and often with flying colors.

And all that while I still, admittedly, spent a lot of my time in college partying. Slacking off. Not doing much.

But I still managed to get all my work done on time and well.

So I got good grades. I graduated.

My failed classes were resigned to the pages of history.

It wasn't until later that I realized I actually have ADHD, Inattentive subtype. Which means it's hard to keep my attention (even if I'm not bouncing off the walls). What this meant in school was that as soon as I decided a class was "boring," it'd lose my attention. And the teacher probably couldn't win it back.

You see, most people's brains are wired to be able to focus even on things they think are boring. My brain fogs out things that don't hold my attention and moves on to things that do.

That's why I'd do great in subjects that interested me … And horrible in subjects that didn't.
But this poses a big problem as a freelancer.

And while I think it's an especially big problem for me because of my ADHD, I also believe it's a problem for all freelancers.

We all have trouble focusing and getting the things done that need to be done.

There are all the convenient distractions of email, the internet, making a snack or lunch, calling up a friend because you know there's no boss over your shoulder telling you not to make personal calls …

You know your own distractions.

When you let these distractions take hold, it eats up your workday.

Just a minute of focusing somewhere other than work often takes 15 or 20 minutes of valuable time because of how long it takes to get your momentum back.

This eats up hours.

Well, here's a simple solution.

Get a kitchen timer. Set it for 30 minutes. Open up whatever it is you're supposed to be working on.

Press start on the timer. And don't look at anything else until your 30 minutes are up. Focus exclusively on that one task.

Do this a few times in your day and you'll be amazed how quickly you start getting things done.

Better still, if you have focus problems like I do, this will help you get through all those boring tasks quickly.

This makes you use your time smarter so you devote less hours of your day to working. And it makes you more productive – which as a freelancer means you make more.

I have one other addition to this technique I've added recently to get even more done in a short workday. You should read my article, Easy Time Management for Copywriters and Other Freelancers, to find out what it's all about.

Do you already use the kitchen timer technique? Do you have a variation on it that can help me focus better? Let me know by commenting below.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ten Minutes to Better, Faster Writing

Cindy Cyr here. This week, I’m excited to reveal some ways to write better and faster that I discovered this summer.

Have you ever witnessed an athlete in training? Athletes build muscles to get stronger, faster, and better. This helps them be competitive. Win more. And dig deep when they’re tired, sore, and need to pull through.

As a freelancer, building your “writing muscles” will help you in many ways. You’ll become more confident in your writing. Win more assignments. Push through “writer’s block.” And meet tough deadlines even when you're exhausted from working your day job.

This week, I’m going to give you some “push-ups” to build your “writer muscles.”

Don’t worry. They’re fun. And for the most part, you’ll spend no more than 10 minutes a day on them. But they’re effective.

Your “writing push-ups” are adapted from pro–songwriter techniques I picked up when my songwriter son, Dalton, asked me to join him and my husband in their morning songwriting exercises.

They recently attended an International Songwriter Conference taught by hit songwriters, so I was eager to learn what the pros had taught them.

I noticed how much good songwriting parallels good copywriting. And when I applied these strategies to my own writing, I immediately saw results. For example, one technique I’ll share has sliced my writing time by 75 percent. I NEVER struggle for ideas—instead, they instantly and constantly appear. And clients comment on the emotional connection to my writing. One even said she cried.

Like me, I think you’ll find they help you write spicier copy. Create an avalanche of ideas. Write faster. Help you tap into people’s emotions better and build more confidence in your writing.
Ready to get started? Here we go with “Writing Push-up #1.”

Writing Push-up #1: Object Writing

Do you ever wonder how people like Matt Furey and Jay White can write an email in 10 minutes … and generate thousands in sales?

It used to take me more time just to come up with ideas. And even more time to massage the piece to get it just right.

Then I discovered the key to writing fast …

You see, the reason Matt and Jay can write so fast is because they have trained themselves to immediately tap into their best stories.

Here’s how you can train yourself to instantly access your best ideas:

Use a songwriting technique called “object writing.” (Find out how to use object writing to create more compelling copy in my article How to Liven Up Your Copy and Connect with Your Reader On a Deeper Emotional Level.”)

With this technique, you randomly pick an object, emotion, or event and focus on using all of your senses. Then you write about it. The key to using it to write faster is to:

Do it first thing in the morning: Berklee College professor and author Pat Pattison says, “Two beings inhabit your body”—you and “your writer”—and if you’re like most people, your writer is “lazy” and “could remain blissfully asleep.”

His advice is to “wake up your writer early so you can spend the day together.”

To wake up your writer, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier and do 10 minutes of object writing first thing in the morning.

Stop writing precisely at the 10-minute mark: You may be tempted to do more than 10 minutes. However, if you go over your 10 minutes, you’ll not only find it difficult to consistently block out that time, but you’ll also be tempted to use a longer session one day as an excuse not to do it the next.

So set a timer and stop promptly at 10 minutes. Even if you are in the middle of a great idea … stop.

This exercise will help you:

Learn to write faster. At first, you’ll find you won’t get to your best ideas until the timer goes off. This frustrates your inner writer. But this also trains your writer to get to the “good stuff” faster because your writer doesn’t want to get cut off. Gradually, you’ll get to your best stuff faster and faster until you’re able to instantly tap into your well of good ideas.

Create better copy. Because you “wake up” your writer early, your writer will be working all day creating a pool of ideas.

Do this religiously and you’ll find this eliminates your “writer’s block.” Plus, it gives you the ability to tap into copy ideas for things like headlines and leads and autoresponders much quicker than you ever did before. This translates to writing and completing projects faster.

Your writing push-up for today is to pick a random object and write about it. Use all seven senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste, organic (sensation from internal organs), and kinesthetic (sensory input from the actions of your body). Don’t worry about writing in complete sentences. Just have fun with it. Then let me know how it goes by commenting below.

Do this every day for six weeks and watch how you start writing better and faster!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Make Each Day Count When You Face These Two Truths

How do you really make each day count?

I mean, beyond the cliché stuff, like “stopping to smell the roses” or “dancing like no one is watching.”

But do you really know how to apply that stuff? How to translate it to everyday life?

I can certainly tell you what not to do (speaking from experience). But I also want to share two practical ways you can really make each day count. Pay attention because this is especially relevant to us freelancers.

Here’s What Doesn’t Work

Total control of your schedule is one of the ultimate freelancing perks … but it also paves the road to some mighty temptation.

My first year as a freelancer, I learned this the hard way. Whenever I was flummoxed by a project or had even the slightest trace of writer’s block, I’d head out – usually to a cafe with my husband.

I justified it by telling myself, “This is exactly why I’m living the writer’s life – so I can enjoy green chile burritos and piñon candy at the drop of a hat!”

To say the least, I never went hungry that first year. I also didn’t get a lot of work done. I used my freedom to the max, justifying each outing as quality time with my hubby.

Those jaunts of pleasure were short-lived. Though pleasant, they didn’t contribute much to my long-term life goals. They certainly didn’t contribute to my short-term income goals.

After getting intensely frustrated that my career wasn’t moving forward, it hit me. This unproductive spontaneity was my real weakness, especially since I misinterpreted it as making each day count.

The Most Detrimental Temptation to Freelancers

It comes down to this: though it’s a gift to be in charge of our time, it’s a waste to not make optimal use of that time. Our blessing as freelancers is that we have the option to take off when necessary and appropriate — not that we should whenever we want just because we can.

My first real lesson in this came during a conference put on by million-dollar copywriter Dan Kennedy. He was the first person I met who considered spontaneity a bad thing. My previous perception was that it made you fun and exciting as a freelancer … creative, even.

During the conference, Dan Kennedy shared a copy of his grueling daily schedule. It was something like 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. five days of the week, with only a quick half-hour daily break.

The guy is a machine.

After seeing his schedule and feeling like sloths, the other attendees and I got to talking. One fellow copywriter made a couple of good points: for one, Dan probably doesn’t do any laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. The point is, Dan Kennedy’s time goes to writing copy, not running a household.

With that revelation, several of us chimed in with the obligations we all shoulder. A lot of the copywriters I know can’t outsource all their daily chores. Most are parents, juggling the daily demands of kids. Those who don’t have kids face other duties, like caring for aging parents.

The point is, most of us have something that saps our time and energy, whether it’s willingly or unwillingly. Plus, none of us got into this field to put in those kinds of hours.

But what if, just for a moment, we canceled out our excuses (i.e., the things that drain our time and energy)? What if they just didn’t matter anymore?

Let’s Be Realistic Here … How Much More Time CAN You Spare?

Let me get one thing straight. I am NOT saying you should sacrifice whatever family or other obligation it is that tethers your time. You can’t give up time with your kids. You can’t start giving less in your role as caretaker.

But, you can change your other habits. All of us have something that saps our time. For some, it’s television. For others, it’s social outings. Or just plain procrastinating on the Internet.

I’ve already given up television. I only head out with my friends once a month (if that). But I do spend a lot of leisurely time with my husband and small children. I love and treasure that time.

Should I give it up? No.

What I should do is plan for it.

Temptations Are HUGE Unless You Do This …

Look at your life. Think about the people who matter most … the activities you most enjoy … the things that make you comfortable.

If you get rid of all the excess stuff that pollutes your life – from television to junk food to lazing around in bed … will that free you up to embrace the things that matter?

The trick is to separate temptation from obligation. I think when you feel obligated to sit in your chair and “work,” then temptations become greater and harder to resist. But when you see the payoff at the end, it ceases to be an obligation.

For me, that payoff is that I can adjust my schedule every day as I see fit. If one of the kids has a doctor’s appointment, I’m there in a heartbeat. My only requirement is that I still put in a set amount of writing time every day.

If you build up a freelance career that you truly enjoy, which demands the best you have to give, then you won’t feel obligated to put time in at all. You’ll want to do it, just as much as you’ll want to leave your computer behind when you’re done with your work and head out for an afternoon of sunshine.

The Two Truths You Must Accept

Here are the two truths that will help you make each day count:
  1. Plan your work and life most of the time and be spontaneous only some of the time.
  2. Replace temptations and obligations with activities/people/experiences you truly enjoy and benefit your life.
Put these two truths into practice and you’re likely to enjoy your freelance writer’s life a lot more.

Even better than that, the things that you most want – like a successful, freedom-filled career – will come easier and be more rewarding.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Looking for some Feedback - Give Us Your Opinion !

 We've undergone a lot of changes since the beginning of the year - one major one being this new website design! I have a favor to ask of all of you who visit our site, whether you've been frequenting in hopes of new content (which we're working on) or are a first time visitor, we would greatly appreciate if you would take a short survey for us - and maybe even reach out via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter with some advice for us if you have it! As a thank you, we are putting your name in a drawing to win either one free blog post of up to 500 words or a free eBook depending on why you follow us at R&J Creative Services.

Click Here to Take a Quick Multiple Choice Survey

Monday, January 25, 2016

Starting the Year Off Right - What's Instore for 2016?

It's been a crazy ride since this time last year. It's hard to really believe we've come this far. I'm still rocking the writing gig's full time - and doing better than ever! If you want to learn more about freelancing then check out my blog - which will be updated weekly from now on!

So from now on, Thursday afternoons a new blog post will go live on my blog Freelance Lifestyle! Posts will cover topics like how to deal with low-balling clients, where to find higher paying work, strategies for pitching and proposals and even a few productivity hacks for ADHD people like myself.

Aside from that - we should finally have a very limited number of designs available in our RedBubble shop by the end of February - if not sooner! Keep a look out for that. The first addition will be a 420 Friendly "Your State" T-Shirt. There will be one for every state! Help promote legalization in your community - we all deserve a 420 friendly state!

I've also separated my blog (which previously was going to also feature product reviews and Barefut Essential Oil reviews) into a couple areas. For now, the only "sub-blog" I'm working with is for Barefut Essential Oils - a company I myself buy from and am happy to promote.

NOTE* I do receive a commission when you purchase Barefut products through the links on my blog. You could do the same - you just have to become an affiliate! You can learn more about Barefut's affiliate program here. The Barefut blog will be undergoing a make-over soon, so please bare with me.

You should also take a few minutes to follow our social media pages if you haven't - we will be running a T-Shirt Give-Away soon!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

It's Been a While - What's New?

Hey there guys! I know it's been a while since I opened up R&J Creative Services official website and I've been leaving you in the dark.

That's not going to happen anymore. At least once a week, you will be hearing from us - most likely just a quick little update to let you guys know where we're at on some of our biggest projects.

Fandom T-Shirts & Posters

So the first thing I want to mention is our RedBubble shop will hopefully have a small number of fandom themed designs ready by December 1st - just in time for Christmas! We will be previewing some of the designs on our social media pages - so be sure to follow us (there's nifty buttons in the sidebar for that!).

Discount Services for the Holiday Season

In spirit of the holiday season we're going to be providing discounted services EXCLUSIVELY through Fiverr!  We will be providing you with links to my old, revived Fiverr account and Rob's new one by the end of the week. So if you have been thinking about hiring us for voice work or a series of blog posts or anything like that, now is the time to do it!

However in order to comply with Fiverr TOS we have to keep all communication for these projects through the Fiverr platform. Basically, if you e-mail us asking for the discounted rate, you will be forwarded to our Fiverr accounts and no further correspondence would be via private email concerning the project. :)

I think that's everything for today. Keep an eye out, there's much more to come! 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Welcome to Our New Home on the Web!

If you were referred here from our old blog (what we called the “beta blog”) then welcome back! We appreciate you sticking with us – we are aware there was a lot of down time between posts before but that is all changing now!

If this is your first time visiting our website then thank you for stopping by! We are super excited to have our website just about finished!

So what’s new?

Well – the very first thing that you will notice is the fact that we switched platforms. For us, the Google/Blogger platform was just perfect and simple enough. We may not stay here forever, but for now, for many reasons, it made sense.

We also separated our business website and Julia’s blog. We figured it may get confusing with so many different types of posts from updates about our business, freelancing tips and now product reviews.

The Blog…

So R&J Creative Services is still the place to find everything about our business. For now we will provide weekly updates to this blog. Things we’re up to, projects we may be working on, stuff like that.

When you visit the Freelance Lifestyle(.net) you will find things like freelancing tips and productivity hacks. On top of all that however, Julia has recently taken up product reviewing on Amazon and we have found a love for the many uses of essential oils.

So along with all the usual stuff, Julia will also be reviewing products that we find useful in our lives. She will also be writing about the many ways you can use essential oils and keeping everyone up to date with deals from our favorite brand Barefut Essential Oils.

Our Services Have Officially Expanded…

Over recent months we’ve been talking about adding voice over services. We did mention that we had the equipment before, but we never got around to adding the Voice-Over Services page on the beta site.

With this site we have a page with descriptions of a couple of different voice over services – so anyone who was waiting for that information we would love to hear from you!

The services currently include character voices and audio book narration, but if your project is outside that scope we would love to hear your ideas, we can probably help you still.

What do we have to look forward to?

Well, we have a lot of long-term goals for R&J Creative services. One we’ve mentioned before is an online t-shirt shop on RedBubble. We’ve got the account set up and we’re working on a couple of designs already too.

Now here’s the catch – we thought it would be pretty awesome to do a t-shirt giveaway. We will talk more about this later, but before we can even consider this option we need to have enough followers to make it happen.

So if you want to be eligible to enter giveaway contests (and there may be more than just t-shirts later, we may even offer the choice of merchandise or free services) then you should follow us on Social Media!

We’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and in a couple of months we will let you know more about our first contest! 

Oh and on another note -  

Please don't mind us if the site changes a little over the next week or two. While for now we are happy with the design for Freelance Lifestyle being a stock image we are looking for something more unique for R&J CS. 

Basically, even if the site ends up looking different at some point don't fear - you're in the right place as long as the URL says ! We are home - we're just still trying to break in our little bit of space on the internet. :)

Is there anything else?

Right now that about sums it all up. We wouldn’t want to bore you to death this week and have nothing left for next week!

So check out the Freelance Lifestyle blog and go like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We can’t wait to hear from you guys!
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