Fight Club and Deadlines and Such Like Things

I have read the gospel according to Chuck Palahniuk. Fight Club, he calls it. I have read it and sort of believe it; I have gone into its murky waters and emerged a new soul. New, revived and believing that my days of weak knees and working overtime are over. I am done agonizing over deadlines, and you can too. We shall base our solution on the Fight Club gospel, which is so wonderful not to be shared with you, my dear beloveds.

First, the deadline problem

Many times, you have a deadline or several deadlines to beat. It’s nine in the morning, and you have close to 10k words to deliver by dusk – yet you don’t have the foggiest of ideas where to start. It feels like your cranium has been evacuated, and in its place there’s a block of ice. Or wood. Or nothingness. Your head is a block of unintelligent inanimate substance; writer’s block.

And if Writer’s block isn’t the worst, there are endless emails and a nagging phone that can’t seem to remain on the hook. You become sweaty and wobbly every time you look at the buzzer marking your impeding deadline. You can almost feel the impatient tapping of your client’s foot. You stare at the blank page on the screen for hours on end, and when you finally type the first sentence, you quickly succumb to the ‘saving grace’ of the backspace key. Your creative juices have never been so sour.

Here’s the magic. Here’s how to beat the twin demons of writers block and deadlines.

Set Your Own Rules

Fight Club has rules.

“The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule is the same.” – Chuck

You need to have rules with your writing. Say, for example, the number of uninterrupted hours that you need to spend daily writing. This is time that no one is supposed to distract you. No mails, no calls, just you, a pen and some paper.

Allocate time depending on the amount of work, and then find the time of the day when you write best and stick to it.

Sure, writing is about creativity, and creativity is about spontaneity. This may contradict the whole idea of rules and guidelines, but creativity comes to the calm mind, and you can only get a calm mind when you know you have ample and uninterrupted time to work.

Plan Everything

Every Saturday night, they have fight club. At a designated bar, at a designated time. Two guys to a fight, one fight at a time, and if it’s your first time, you MUST fight. When fighting you don’t think too much. You just fight. But before the actual fight, there is training and strategizing – planning that is.

This makes it much like writing. You just go where your mind takes you. Nevertheless, you need to have a plan; otherwise you end up overdoing things, or digressing too much.

There’s this thing that they say, that to fail to plan is to plan to fail. It’s a true thing. The thing about planning what you’re going to write is that it gives you confidence. It shows you that you do indeed know a lot about your content subject, and that should set you in your groove. Not that we’re saying that it should all be planned out; there’s plenty of room for spontaneity. But planning gets you started, and that’s what we need most of the time, to get our motors revving.

Take a Break

Sometimes, staring at the screen doesn’t do much good. You need to go get inspired. This could mean watching a YouTube video of babies laughing, or going for a short walk. Whatever tickles your fancy, take a (short) break from your writing. We find inspiration in the strangest of places and maybe you just need to go find your muse.

Take care though, for there is a demon that comes under the disguise of break: procrastination. Procrastination is the thief of time, so they say. But with the rules and planning, you can take a million breaks a get away with it.

There you have it, a few tips to stay on top of your game, and beat all those deadlines. It is simple; set your own WORK rules, plan ahead, and take a few breaks to keep your creative genius going.

Editor’s Note: Post from Our Contributing Writer.

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Are you a professional writer…yet?

Are you a Professional Writer Yet?

I have not been around this place for a while now, and I am beginning to wonder whether this behavior is professional or not. If we had two categories: Professional and Unprofessional, and a question in the form of today’s subject matter, this absenteeism tendency would sadly fall under Unprofessional. And it is not funny, not at all, not like Bikozulu on any day.

But I had reasons, and good reasons for that matter. I was berthed by everything Vistawriting. This pet project is coming up and along very well, and I have God, you readers, and my clients to thank for it all. I am back though, and it is my plan to stick around for all of us; you, me, and our love for the written art.

This post goes out to all of us; we who love the written art; we who eat and drink and do things to the written art; we who appreciate as pen press paper, and as poem meet stone.

So,

Courtesy: Vistawriting

See you around.

How To Write Amazing SEO Articles That Knock Socks off your Clients’ Feet

Is it your desire to write top SEO articles that deliver the punch, and push clients to hire you again? Do you want to write SEO articles that speak to your client, their audience, and far beyond? Well, how about I lend you my hand? This guide takes on a rather different approach…I did not research this on the internet; the approach I’m about to share is something I use personally, and it works. Or, at least for me.

Write Top SEO articles by First, WANTING it

“If you want it, you must will it, and if you will it, it will be yours.” — Sven, HF2

A lot, even better writing, can come out of positive thinking. But how do you know you’re thinking positively as far as writing is concerned? How do you know that your wanting, and willing to write better, are right on track?

You start investing time [and maybe money] in better writing practices. You start learning more about becoming a better writer. You find yourself in such places as this blog. You start reading more and more writing guides. You become a writing student. And then, you start writing top SEO articles, and blogs, and everything else, not necessarily for the money, but as if you were writing for yourself.

But, you might want to believe in yourself first; in your abilities to write better articles. When you have faith in yourself, wanting, and willing won’t be as difficult.

Write top SEO articles by READING a lot

If you are not reading, start NOW! If you are already reading, well and good. But don’t stop there; read, and read some more. Read anything and everything as long as it is written well (and as long as it is healthy).

How do you know it is written well? It reads well, it is interesting, it is captivating, and passes the message without trying too hard! Moreover, it has all the markings of good grammar (duh!). Reading just a little bit more everyday exposes you to a wide pool of different writing styles, and millions of words – that are just perfect in your position as a writer.

But how do you ACTUALLY write TOP SEO articles. How do you construct an amazing article on paper [or word]? See below.

First, Draft the OUTLINE of the SEO article

If you are given only keywords to work with, play around with the ideas that come to mind, and come up with an interesting topic. People lust after catchy topics, and even catchier sub headings. So, structure your outline such that you have a catchy topic, and interesting sub headings. With sub headings, you know exactly what to say, and what goes where. You need the outline to guide you through the article, and to help with research.

Without a definitive outline, your writing will tend to run amok…and readers will know it, and I will know it, and you will know it, because it sucks BIG TIME! Draft an outline to get a mental picture of your article, before writing it.

Carry out DEEP and PROPER research for each SEO article

You want to know more about your subject matter. You don’t want to take a quick look at a ton of material on Google, or any other search engine, just because money awaits. You want to get familiar with the topic, no matter how boring, or technical. You want to have fun researching.

You also want to be HIGHLY selective with search engine results; not everything is useful. Learn how to tell chaff from grain, for it will make your work easier, and faster. Are you with me? I will recommend Ezinearticles.com, because I have always had fun with the site.

Have some paper, and pencil around – to jot down major points, and the supporting ideas. If a page is resourceful, you will know it by the first five lines. You cannot hope to write a TOP SEO article on any topic if you are not knowledgeable in that specific topic.

Write OUT your FIRST SEO DRAFT, on PAPER!

Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, type your first draft. Take out a clean sheet of paper, and wrap the ideas you collected using your own words.  If you are an avid reader, you will have enough words and styles to deliver a punch for a message. Researching takes care of the ideas.

By preparing a draft, you free your creative genius for the next step, which is:

Actually TYPING your top SEO article

Type your first draft, and improve on quality as you move along. Change a keyword here, and a sentence there. Add freshness and style as you type your article. Since you already freed your creative genius by first writing on paper, you have more brain power to add personality and engage creativity. Get my point?

Drafting on paper frees your brain. When you type, you find it easy to be creative. And, you won’t even notice it, it is automatic…like tricking your own brain. Sounds like fun, right?

Last point: Edit and Proofread your SEO articles
When you use this method, you often tend to think your SEO articles are free of errors. After all, you drafted and typed. But human is to err. So, do not be a lazy writer, proofread and edit your SEO article. A letter or a word missing here, or a comma missing somewhere else can change the entire meaning of your article.
Submitting work that is not edited tells your client that you are careless, and not committed, and lazy, and everything else that they don’t want. Use microsoft word spelling and grammar feature sparingly, and learn to depend on your prowess; you will be shocked just how much grammar you can muster.
However, if you are not sure what a word or a phrase means, look it up on Google (home to plenty of free online dictionaries) or use an alternative word. Remember to write SEO articles that make sense.

That Random Number

I have always wanted to do this, you know, pull a random piece just to throw you off-balance. It is like that random number the Deejay plays to thaw away a stale night and get the crowd going. Yes it is random, but I will shake and serve it rocked just the way you like.

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...to throw you off-balance

Clients love spontaneity. Clients love fresh ideas. Clients love initiative. More so, they love it when you’re excited about working on their project. They want to believe you are fun to work with. They want adventure. They want to believe you’re dependable; that what you offer is bankable. They want professionalism; the full treatment, no excuses fronted, no excuses taken. They lust after trust that culminates in lasting professional relations. They want to give you return business, so they will always fish for that WOW factor. They want to hire the best, and pay the best.

They want to feel warmth and well taken care of. They hire you, so they can spend their time on Twitter because they pay you not to creating more opportunities. They want you to write, and write exceptionally well because you’re their voice; it is your work to talk the money in. They value honesty, diligence, secrecy and such privileges.

They hate empty promises, and so does everyone else. They hate unanswered mails; effective communication is, above everything else, timely. You don’t want to be demanding, or a nag because that is as repulsive as a monkey in a negligee.  Well, they hate everything that they do not love.

When all you have is a few paragraphs to make your case, you want to hit the home run. You want to be clear and to the point. You want to reach out, convince and win. You want to be confident in your abilities. You want to prove your worth. You want to fit the suit; convince the client you, yourself, cut the clothe. You want to show mastery of trade. You want to be the only expert in your field. You want the client to want your service.

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OH, RESPECT the DEADLINES 🙂

Only then will you be hired. Good luck

TOP 10 Blogging Tips For 2012

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The blogging game can be quite the hard nut to crack, especially if you’re wet behind the ears and still learning the ropes. Many hopeful bloggers will excitedly fire up their engines, roll down the driveway but stop dead in the main street. Inspiration comes easy but to a few, as there lives a multitude of would-be writers who find it quite the gargantuan task riding out the first five or so posts. But again, who said the ball would roll easy?

Nonetheless, how do you keep the flame burning? How do you make certain that your blogging adventure is a thrill and doesn’t peter out prematurely? Below, find ten tips to keep your blogging game up and ahead of the pack in 2012.

1. Your Opinion Counts

People love blogs since they are written by other people. It’s like the latest internet addiction, pegged high and probably next to social media. For some zany reason, people derive amusement from knowing how and what other people think. Find a creative way of letting the masses into your mind and they will love you.

2. Link and Link some more

If you have a great post to share, link it to other contextual resources all over the internet. Support your post with relevant links to other web pages. Caution: Do not overdo it!

3. Write LESS

Nobody enjoys reading through a dam of words. Hit the nail on the head and do it fast. As you must already know, your readers are a busy lot and time is quite the precious commodity. Do not stall with long opening pages; blast your wits into the reader as soon as they land.

4. 250-Words, period!

The best blog posts are the shortest ones. Avoid the long post, unless it is by a long way necessary. Besides, long posts are harder to put together and easier for your readers to forget.

5. Use snappy Headlines

See how editors have managed to get people buying newspapers on a daily basis? The trick lies in snappy and catchy headlines. Sum up your entire blog post in catchy headlines; they are the bee’s knees.

6. Bullets

Everybody loves bullet lists. Info presented in such lists is easy on the eye, palatable and always fresh.

7. Easy to Scan posts

Throw in a sub heading every few paragraphs. Use short sentences that are to the point.

8. Define your style and stick to it

It is common knowledge that people are repulsed by unpleasant surprises. Work on a unique style and stick to it. Your readers will love you more when they know what to expect.

9. Keywords and more keywords

Assuming your every post bears a theme, it is important to litter every post with relevant keywords. Think about what keywords your readers will use to search for the post and use them generously. All the same, ensure that your post reads naturally.

10. Finally, edit your posts

Before you hit Publish, proofread and edit your post to correct errors. Good writing lies in the editing.

How to Apply for a Freelance Writing Post and ACTUALLY nail it!

Nailing a freelance post is all about tact, tact and some more tact. Editors set quite some bar, and we all hate them for that, but unless you are ready to rise high and above it, you are roast goose.

Late last year, I had to hire a few extra hands to help me push some work. For that, I floated a few ads all over the place and awaited the applications. Did I receive applications? Yes I did, and in good numbers. Suffice to say, I was quite the happy man. But all that changed when I actually got down to reading the applications. Long story short, most of the applications were a real pain in the ***. So good fellas, grab yourselves pencils and some paper, this is a 101.

Tip 1: Professionalism

Yes, it is freelance and you run your own schedules and such, but freelance writing is a JOB like any other. Your application MUST reflect professionalism. No fancy fonts, no fancy styles and no fancy formatting; stick to plain old formal. No editor will hire your sorry self if you manage to sell that professionalism eludes you.

Tip 2: A story for an application counts…NOT

Editors and hiring managers are a busy lot. Short put applications that hit the nail on the head are quite attractive. Do the math.

Tip 3: Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio

Samples are quite IMPORTANT. In fact, an application is not complete without one or two samples. Refrain from sending in everything on your hard drive. One or two first-rate samples will reflect well on your application.

Tip 4: Grammar

Having grammatical errors and careless mistakes in an application is just SAD.

Tip 5: Not following Instructions

It speaks volumes about YOU!

Well, that’s about it, five tips to get you started. Now go and write a short interesting application, throw in two samples, check grammar, check again, make sure you are within the remits of the availed instructions, mail your application and pray.

See you around.

How to Withdraw Money from Online Freelancer Sites in Kenya

The life of a freelancer can be quite unnerving. It is a life fast-paced, clogged to near-suffocation by deadlines and unrelenting emails from worried clients. So it was all pomp and celebration when I made my first $ online. Well, it was nothing big, just $75 from a writing gig. All the same, it was good enough a wand to throw a few rounds of latte. First things first, I had to withdraw my earnings.

I made my $75 in less than a week at Freelancer. You have to wait for 15 days before your first withdrawal is processed; has something to do with security reasons or concerns of some sort. That was not an issue though and soon enough, the 15-day waiting period was confined to the past. But still, I did not have my money.

No, Freelancer had processed everything right but the amount sat jailed in my PayPal account. Withdrawing to the said platform was a grave mistake I should have known better to avoid. Technically speaking, PayPal suffers from multiple organ failure as long as the Kenyan market is concerned. Luckily, a friend of a friend living abroad came to my aid and I got my earnings, though painfully lesser than $75 via Western Union. Boy, oh boy was I DISCOURAGED. I gave myself an indefinite break.

Then one late afternoon, someone special mentioned Moneybookers, which I gather is currently being married off to Skrill. She also mentioned another payment platform, the first of its kind, that is based right here in Kenya. I decided to give both a try. I set up a Moneybookers account, which I must admit was very simple and straightforward. Then I moved on and created an account with ePay-Kenya, which also was simple and relaxed.

Simply stated, ePay-Kenya allows you to withdraw funds straight from Moneybookers to your M-Pesa account. The whole process takes less than an hour (as long as you do not withdraw at night).

Well, it is at the formative stages and the whole thing is somewhat running on manual, plus ePay has to rely on third party gateways to process the payments. That should explain the ten-minute-to-one-hour wait. Overall, it is quite effective and probably the only system in Kenya that allows you to withdraw instantly from online freelancer sites through Moneybookers. All that you need is an active Moneybookers account for clients to make payments and a verified ePay-Kenya account.

Nonetheless, there are fees that will need meeting. Before withdrawing to M-Pesa, you will have to make a deposit to your ePay account from Moneybookers. Every deposit attracts a 10 percent fee that is claimed from the amount deposited. There is also a 3 percent fee taken by Moneybookers. Finally, to withdraw to M-Pesa, you have to part with a $3 fee. For illustration purposes, let us withdraw $50 you supposedly made this week.

  • 10% of $50 = $5 (By ePay)
  • 3% of $50 = $1.5 (By Moneybookers)
  • $3 M-Pesa charge (By ePay)

Amount that goes into your pocket = $50 – $5 -$3 – $1.5 = $40.5

With the garbage that is our economy, the hypothetical $40.5 in hand is better than $50 held up somewhere on the internet. I did what I love doing most and complained about the fees. One seemingly well-trained fellow nicely informed me that fees would eventually come down with the expected expansion in membership. Projections by ePay pegged that at about 6 months from now, hopefully. I later learnt that the seemingly expensive rates are due to high fees charged by the aforementioned third party gateways.

On the bright side, the customer care team is on point; quick, courteous and well composed. All is not lost if you have some money trapped away in PayPal. EPay-Kenya has a way of withdrawing the same. For this, you will need to contact them directly at epay-kenya.com

Well, I will continue using the service if for nothing else, its reliability. Of course, I will be looking forward to lower fees.

Ok mateys, that there is how to withdraw money online if you are a freelancer in Kenya. As a certain literature tutor used to quote, there are many ways of killing a rat, so if you are privy to any other way, I would be delighted to put a few words to that as well.