Blog Archives

When in Doubt, Network!

So thanks to the economy and those pesky things called bills, last year I went looking for a full-time job and got one doing tech support towards the end of the month. Oh, I still have my occasional freelancing gigs, but it’s all about paying the rent and getting out of debt, you know. One of the good things about coming back to the workforce, especially when phone tech support, is that you meet a lot of new and interesting people.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has or is doing some office work and freelancing on the side, so you’ve probably encountered folks who may have been interested in what other things you do – this can certainly be family and friends, but I’m talking about co-workers and yes, even clients. Working tech support for an ISP, I of course speak to a lot of different people, every minute, of every hour, of every day that I’m working; many are just regular folks having issues, but once in a while I speak to folks that are doing what I am – freelancing/work at home/small business – and I basically make a new friend. Read the rest of this entry

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How NOT to be…Facebook, part II

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

Mornin’ readers!

So, our last post here on FRR was about Facebook‘s continued foray into making their users not want to use them again. This was in response to the new change that Facebook made during the summer in which they changed their users’ email addresses with that of their very own Facebook email address, whether they wanted it or not.

Not that this was the first time that Facebook as annoyed users, whether it be constantly changing their privacy policies or changing them while erasing previously set up settings that a user had done or the bragging they did about their IPO that didn’t really do so well.

So in this second part, we’ll look at how we as freelancers can avoid doing some of these things that FB insists on doing to the rest of us.

3. Not Caring About Users

As a freelancer, it’s important that you take into account what your client wants. Now, sometimes the client may have some crazy ideas that they want to see done, which is when you should politely request that perhaps that idea is crazy. However, the important thing is always keep their ideas and requests in your head. Not caring about what your client – or users – want can cost you a rep.

4. Making It Impossible for the Client to Change Anything

Here is the big thing with Facebook – every change and implementation they make almost seems purely designed to see how many of their users will actually take the time to change it. Of course, many of the social network’s users actually don’t bother to change things like their privacy settings (which is bad, btw!), however for those who want to make sure that only their friends and families can find them, trying to change anything on Facebook is a hassle and confusing and utterly frustrating.

This might be an issue for those of you who freelance in web design or even programming; if you have designed something that will allow the client to change something – like a web site in which they can log in to access an account – don’t make it so complicated that they aren’t able to do so. In the case of programming, of course there will be sections in which the client shouldn’t have access to, but if it’s something as simple as trying to change their password or even changing the color scheme (if they are able), let it be easy enough for them to do it without them breaking anything.

Facebook isn’t the only big company that’s been making some big mistakes in the last few years. Next, we’ll take a look at how Netflix managed to dig themselves into a hole that nearly buried them, while Sony’s Playstation Network was determined to give out every one of their client’s credit card numbers.

How NOT To Be…Facebook, part I

Hello, faithful reader!

So a few posts ago I said that I would be starting a new series here on Freelancer R called “How NOT To Be”, with the purpose being learning from the mistakes of the big guys in business so that you, the freelancer, don’t fall in to one of their traps.

To start the series, let’s talk about Facebook, shall we? The big giant of the social networks, Facebook is no stranger to pissing off their users. If they aren’t trying to push new features on us that we don’t want, they’re constantly breaking their own security protocols, leaving users to try and figure how to reset their security settings for the seven hundred and fiftieth time.

But, as I read once, as much as we hate Facebook, as Peter Cerera said, it’s a hard habit to break. 750 million people apparently cannot break Facebook, however after the fiasco a few weeks, many have started to try.

At the end of June, Facebook users awoke to the fact that their normal email addresses that were on Facebook had been changed over to Facebook’s email. The thought was to give people an email for the site for better communication; what it did was piss people off. Luckily, many tech sites are helping folks get their email addresses from the clutches of Facebook, but the move was kinda dicky for the social network.

How does this relate to being a freelancer? By reviewing what Facebook did and not doing it yourself.

1. Not Taking Client’s Preference into Account

The whole issue with Facebook changing email on people isn’t about email, it’s about Facebook inserting their rule over their users. Many people happened to like having their own email address on Facebook; that’s called having a choice. In dealing with clients, the last thing you want to do is change something on a client without taking their feedback into the idea.

2. Not Bothering to Get Client Feedback

Another issue that Facebook faces with this latest change is that they didn’t bother to ask us – the users – whether we wanted this or not. This has been a trend with Facebook lately, first with timeline and now this; now FB has claimed they told users about this – months ago. Can you see where Facebook has become Failbook here? Let me illuminate – first FB didn’t bother to ask or have an option for users to keep or switch emails, then they didn’t bother to announce the change immediately before it happened.

Part Two of this will continue, with the addition of how to not care like Facebook and how to make it nearly impossible to change back to what you wanted.

Stay Tuned!

Me & Google+ – We Has a Thing Goin’ On

Google Plus logo

Image by Bruce Clay, Inc via Flickr

If you haven’t heard of Google+ (or Google Plus) by now, you certainly will in the next few days and coming weeks. Google’s offering of the social un-network has taken people by storm. Already predictions were that G+ would hit the 10 million mark (which it has) and would maybe see 20 million by this end of this weekend.

Friday marked my one week anniversary with the new Google project and I am loving it. Now, I know you’ve probably read enough reviews and remarks on it and if you haven’t, you’ve probably got Facebook friends demanding you switch over, so you’re probably thinking “Gina, are you going to give us another blog post about how awesome Google+ is?” And the answer to that is –

Yes. Yes I am.

But I will be nice about it and try keeping it in the realm of “why you, as a freelancer, should consider spending time on Google+”. Darren Rowse of Problogger already has a great article of why bloggers should check it out, but in terms of the freelancer, why should you bother with another social network?

Communication. At least, that’s what got me.

In the two weeks that Google+ has been in beta and the one week that I’ve been on, I’ve seen a huge difference between communication with Twitter and Facebook. The one thing that drew to want to try G+ in the first place was that of circles. Circles are the groups of people who are sharing posts with you and who are in your network. On Facebook, these are your friends – you can only see what they post and vice versa. On Twitter, it’s the people who follow you and the people you follow.

Google+ takes the concept of real life circles – you have your friends, your best friends, your family, the people you work with, etc. There’s no real distinction with Facebook and while Twitter has lists, you still can’t separate what you see, but with G+ you can. You can have circles for your friends, circles for your co-workers and boss, circles for your friends, etc; the left hand side of your page displays the list of your circles and clicking on them, you can view the stream of what they’ve posted.

There’s talk now on G+ about the prospect of maybe separating the public circles as well, which would be kinda cool.

But on to why we freelancers should check this out and not because I’m the unofficial ambassador to get people off of Facebook and on to G+. Again, the big thing is the aspect of actual communication. Think about it – Facebook you can really only talk to people who are your friends; Twitter you can talk to anyone, but communication is restricted to 140 characters.

The very aspects of G+ are that of bringing the social back to the social network. People can view posts from people in their circles, but can also be included on shared posts by people outside of the circles; there’s also the idea that you can have discussions with a wide variety of people from around the world.

One of the features that I think is pretty neat in terms of the mobile app (for both Android and iPhone) is that of the Nearby communications; using your address, G+ plus people who are in your area who are also using G+. I’ve actually made a few G+ meets thanks to that. For the whole week that I’ve used the service, my circles actually include new people in both Denver and Google+, which is more than I can say for either Facebook or Twitter.

And I’ve been added to circles, but I don’t necessarily have to add them to my circles. I’m actually surprised at how popular I’m getting.

And then there’s the Hangout feature. The ability to voice/video chat with your friends, family, and new people is a great boom for those who live outside of your state and even business meetings. In fact, Google+ is starting to test out their network to that of businesses and I’ve even heard G+ called the business network.

So how does all of this work for a freelancer? Simple – you get to meet new freelancers – writers, designers, DTP, etc – whether in your area or around the world; with the Hangout feature, you can video conferencing with that new client; Circles can allow you to group your clients and post to them and not everyone; the Huddle feature for the mobile app allows you to group chat so that you know that your lunch meeting has been moved to dinner or the venue has changed.

I could probably go on and on about how Google+ could easily change the face of our social online lives, but why don’t you just try it yourself. Invites are still active, so you might be able to get in. I suggest you try it out. It’s hard to imagine that we’re still in the private beta and already Google has made some updates to the mobile apps and all things Google, as well as addressing and adding some of the requests that we as users had.

Who knows what the end product will be?

The Chicken Pox Caper & Other Things

Hiddey Ho, readerinis!

So you may have noticed that I was gone for a bit. Technically it was only supposed to be for a week, in hour of my 32nd birthday on the 11th. Sadly however, I received news of a friend’s death and it kinda put me in a bad funk. So, last week I had an idea for a post on SEO, but this week’s Facebook conversation has gotten me thinking about something else.

As a writer, you know that you can get inspiration in any place, at any time, and while I struggle to get my month end articles in, I’ve stumbled upon an intriguing mystery.

Here’s the scene –

In 2nd grade, not only get the writing bug, but I also caught one in the form of chicken pox. One of my classmates had caught it and was of course out because it’s contagious. However, I clearly remember them coming back, apparently cured, only to have nearly half the class out due to the chicken pox, which I think he still had.

Now for years, I have been under the impression that my friend, whom I’ll call NK, was the culprit. I’ve told stories on how in second grade, he caught the chicken pox and then proceeded to expose the rest of us. So imagine my surprise when, as part of a comment in regards to a virus posting that occurred on his page, I mentioned that he had given us chicken pox.

Now the kicker – not only had he not given Mrs. Wilson’s 2nd grade class chicken pox, he wasn’t even in Mrs. Wilson’s 2nd grade class.

0.o

That’s what I said!

This has of course brought up a peculiar mystery. If NK was not responsible for the chicken pox, nor being in the same class with me, who then gave me the chicken pox? Now, I will fully admit that I have always been a sickly kid, but usually it was the occasion flu or in my case bronchitis.

Being the mystery lover that I am and of course, knowing that this was going to bother and annoy me throughout the day and week, I did some investigating. If not NK, then who? Suspects? None, other than the people I could actively remember at the top of my head. One of those was that of LS. Luckily, NK had LS on Facebook speed dial, so I then went to go be friends with LS.

LS did confirm that, while he, NK, and I were in Mr. Franks 4th grade class together, the three of us were not in Mrs. Wilson’s class. However, LS and I were. Was it perhaps LS that I was thinking of? From my memory I knew several things about LS –

  1. we were pretty tight friends in elementary
  2. he introduced me to wrestling
  3. I received the 25th anniversary copy of Dr. Strange from him (or bought it, I don’t remember)
  4. I bit him once in 4th grade. I tend to bite.

However, I could not recall if LS had gotten chicken pox when the rest of us did. Then I reasoned it could have been BR, but I wasn’t so sure, as I couldn’t remember him being in Mrs. Wilson’s class. He was in Mr. Franks’ class, as he and I were both in band.

I of course had to write this post the day it came to light (Tuesday); there’s still the rest of the week to discover the truth. Was it perhaps DN? But didn’t we have 3rd grade together with Mrs. Schroeder? Or perhaps I’m completely wrong on the gender itself; all listed have been males. Was it a female culprit that I should be seeking?

UPDATE – So it turns out that LS also had chicken pox. The real question is – was he the same time the rest of us were. The mystery continues to deepen!

How to Use Social Media to Get People to Read Your Stuff

I’ve hit the message of using social media in terms of getting people to read your stuff. And I’m pretty sure I went over why this is important and if you remember me say it, then please forgive the rehash of this, because this is kinda important.

Technology is big. Crazy big. So big that people will look at you funny if you aren’t on at least one social network site (or they may look at you funny if you say you’re still on MySpace). Now, as you are a newbie freelancer (and hopefully not a noob freelancer), you might feel the need to sign up for every single social network site every where and anywhere.

But if I may – you’re just getting started. Why not just use the ones you’re using now?

Say what?

Listen, I was in your same boat; hell, I’m probably still in the same boat! When I started looking into becoming a freelancer on a full time basis, I went and signed up for a whole section of social networks. I got the Twitter, I went LinkedIn, signed up for Diggs (oh, if only I could remember my login info for this), Stumble (same thing), and I’m even posting about articles and blogs on Facebook (which I was adamant about not doing).

But as with the fate of Diggs and Stumble, you of course run into the issue of forgetting what login you have where, especially if you are just posting links to stuff.

But for you, my friend and avid reader of my blog, I’m going to tell you a secret in why – after all these sign ups – you aren’t getting people to read your stuff.

Because you haven’t said ‘hello’.

New freelancers or anyone going gung ho on the online business shift seem to forget that social media is still social. Now, believe me – I do think it’s a bit suspicious that people can post every hour or minute on FB or Twitter (especially when I know they should be working); hey, even I get a little distracted in responding to Tweets, but that’s social media. Think about why you signed up for Facebook.

The point of social networking is to talk to people. That’s the social part; the networking part is the meeting new people and learning new things. Think about Facebook – most times, you’re friends with your friends’ friends, right?

Now that I’ve given you that info, how exactly do you use social media to get people to your stuff?

  1. Sign up for a social network. Just start with one (if you don’t have one); we’ll call it reader’s choice.
  2. Search for friends. This is where I think many newbies fall. I know what you’re thinking – “I’ve signed up for Twitter and now I just sit back and wait for people to come to me” Sorry, but that is not how social media works. Unless you are a celebrity in any fashion (designer, director, Charlie Sheen), no one is just going to start following you. Find people that hold your interests – writing, blogging, websites, etc and start following them. In most cases, they’ll follow you, meaning you now have access to their friends, meaning their friends have access to you.
  3. Tell people. Social media is no good to you if you don’t tell people. Now, if you’re doing articles or design work, you may not be able to post your Twitter name or Facebook page, but if the option is there, do it. And while you’re at it, post it on your website too.
  4. Make Friends. This is a part of the ‘search for friends’ thing, but think of the people you could be making friends with. The Internet is an awesome thing, where you can meet people from all around the world. I have made friends around the states, as well as the UK and Australia. I even have friends in Canada, places I have never been to, but yet I have known these people for years (we’re talking 10+)
  5. Say Something. You, my friend, are a writer. I wrote this blog for writers. And freelancers, but mostly freelancing writers. As a writer, you have things to say. Hence why you are writing. Why then are you not using that gift to say something on your social media site?

Social media is all about give and take really – if you want followers, you have to go out and get them. And they, in return for your cleverness and fit, may reward you with followers for you. Just try it if you haven’t and if you haven’t, why not? And hey! Don’t forget about those real people you got hanging around you. Word of mouth still gets going in the real world too!

Social Media & Fan Fiction

So this week’s blog was going to be about LinkedIn and why it was important for freelancers to take a look at it, but then Fuel Your Writing had an awesome article about whether or not writers should delve into fan fic writing. And I was torn, but as I have made a stand to blog four times a week, today’s post will be all professional and talk about how social media can help you and then tomorrow I’ll go all writing and talk to you all about fan fics. So here we go!

Why Social Media is Important

Social media is crazy hip right now. Everything from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube, etc, everyone’s keeping connected by the world of the Internet.  As a beginner freelancer, no matter what your chosen area, having a presence online is uber important. But why? You may think all that social network hype is good for businesses and teenagers, but how as a freelance does any of that impact you?

It’s simple – social networking brings you and your work to a broader audience. While doing projects gets your name out, nothing gets people to see more of your work than posting on a place where others upon others will see it. Facebook has hit the 500 million mark of those who are on it and use it. That’s 500 million folks that can see your website or portfolio of your work.

I get it, I do. When the whole MySpace and Facebook war started, I said “who cares?” They are both places where teens go when they aren’t doing homework or something useful (no offense to the teens out there).

But eventually,  I broke down and got a MySpace page because I had friends on it. Sadly, of course, I haven’t been on my MS page in forever, but from a business experience, there is an impact of having a page dedicated to your business or brand.

Earlier this week, I completed the social network circle by making a LinkedIn page. I’ve just started it of course, so not sure how much of a benefit that I can gain while on it. During Thanksgiving holiday, one of my Twitter followers, Becki Sams tweeted a question – what did we, as freelancers, find more productive? Twitter or Facebook? From the responses, mine included, it seemed that folks felt that Twitter was a better way to getting out to a ton of people.

So as a beginning freelancer, which site is better? That if of course personal preference. I personally am using Twitter as more of a professional networking place, meeting other freelancers and writers. With the exception of some friends and He Who Must Not Be Named (because he was sending DEs out to protect Betty White, which is paramount in protecting comedy as we know it), the majority of people I’m following or who are following me are freelancers or writers. I’ve also made friends with some in Denver, while I will hopefully be in 2011.

Personally, Facebook, for me is more personal and private. The majority of friends are on that site and I’ll admit, anything kinda goes on my Facebook page. That said, I don’t want professionals or businesses to view my Facebook page. In fact, I don’t even have people from Twitter on my FB page (unless they are friends).

The important thing here is to choose just one of the social networks around. Don’t expect that you’ll be picking up contracts and work like a snap, however it means that you can start to get your name out if you haven’t already. All of the social networks allow for people who follow one person to see who that person follows and in turn, follow them if they so choose. And so on and so on. As a beginner, it’s important to get your name out, so that when you get to be big and famous, people can say “I knew you before the fame.”

On the weekend, as we enter the holiday season and new year, I’ll discuss my favorite thing ever – finances *please insert eye roll and sarcasm* Tomorrow, it about fan fiction!