Freelancer's Guide to the Web

A blog to help freelancers of all types to come and find out the latest in freelancing news and interests.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A new way to use your telephone

Wow... Long time, no post. I haven't forgotten you guys. Honest. I've been zooming around Sologig.com, trying it out, getting some work, and having an overall good time being a freelancer.

I was wanting to point you guys in a direction to keep your operating costs low. If you are like me, you spend a good deal of your office time on the phone. And, in this now itty-bitty world, many of your clients will be out of your local area. Long distance can easily add up, especially if you have some of those really long client meetings where you are discussing miniscule unimportant details about a project.

I want to point you guys over to Jajah.com.

Have you ever heard of the VoIP technology that's all the rage these days? If not, the very nutshelled version is that it allows you to place landline phone calls over the internet. If you are like me, though, you don't want to speak into a microphone while fidgeting with earphones. It's like a highly technical advance in the wrong direction.



Jajah.com allows you to make the really cheap phone calls through your actual phone. Add your home number to your account, then type in the number of your client (or your aging Aunt Edna, who keeps sending you tube socks at odd times of the year). In seconds, you will get a phone call. You pick it up, and the phone rings your client. Voila, a one-cent-per-minute long distance phone call.

Every penny counts when running a home business. Especially when the phone company finds out you are running a business and insists that you start up a business line. Jajah.com just might be your answer to saving a hundred or more bucks per month.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Changing things... but only a little

Since we here at Freelancer's Guide are new to this particular blog, we find it easiest to change things early on.

We're going to change the aim for this blog away from solely freelance work more towards the entire workforce that operates from home. I was once a personal chef that had central operations at my house yet cooked at other peoples' homes. It was very lucrative and involved a lot of work. I worked alone, and from home, and was happy as a clam.

I believe that changing directions -- albeit very slightly -- will provide me with a lot more material to cover.

Send me your ideas, suggestions, and possible topics.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Free Free Freelancin', Part 2: free music, free software, and avoiding spam

This is my second in what will probably be a series of articles on how to get some really great stuff for free while being a freelancer.

We all know that the heart of owning a small business is being frugal and making that profit stretch as far as possible. I, personally, love my money. Nobody makes enough, and so I like keeping what I earn safe and warm in my back pocket.

One thing I do while working -- other than drinking wine and occasionally scratching in unmentionable places -- is listen to my growing music collection on iTunes. I'm definitely one of those people who has a big collection and has to upgrade his iPod due to music overkill. I'm really into contemporary folk, singer-songwriter, and adult alternative. I generally dislike big-label artists. Their sound has been genetically modified for your pleasure. I really enjoy the smaller labels. They have the gumption to get the new people and have them succeed on their own merits. You have to respect that.

I signed up with eMusic a few weeks ago and I really have enjoyed my membership. Just signing up -- which is FREE -- gets you 50 free songs that can play on any MP3 player, including the iPod. And if you enjoy what you hear, the most basic membership is $10 for 40 songs. That is a hell of a lot cheaper than iTunes music store ($0.25 per song). It's not like Napster in which you are just borrowing music. You actually own the music you buy, and the artist actually gets paid. It's legal, it's FREE to just try out, and if you love it (like I do), it's cheap.




I wrote in a previous entry on the wonders of open source software.

Go to this website where you can download a CD image file with over 100 great, FREE open source programs. If you are like me, you may already have a few of these applications. But you can pick and choose what you want as well, so no need to feel overwhelmed by it all.

On one CD, you'll find applications for desktop utilities, educational software, games, graphics, internet, server utilities, sound and video programs, and miscellaneous utilities.

Open source is different from shareware (or freeware) in that it isn't a trial version or a shortened version. It's the whole pie, and it is constantly being upgraded and improved. Many people believe open source software is better than commercial for varying reasons. Go give it a try.




I hate giving out my email address. If you register with any site that requires you to use your email address as verification, you risk that information being sold to people pushing little blue pills and things that make your anatomy grow to sizes that will land you a role in certain movies you wouldn't have your grammy see.

I used to keep a "spare" email address that I would use as my registration email. But it all gets confusing: I forget to check, I use the wrong email address accidentally, the wife thinks I am using it for less than honest reasons, etc.

Lately, I have been using Spambox.info as my junk email. The idea is simple: you have your email on record. You get a temporary email address from Spambox when you register on a site. You specify how long you want that temporary email to last. Once you have gone through the whole process of verifying your email address and you are registered on a site, your Spambox expires and the email address you used to complete the registration process no longer exists.

Give it a try. It'll save you from some headache when you check your email every day.




So, there you go. Some more free stuff to help you stretch your freelancing dollar. Free music, free software, and free email advice. What more could you ask for?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Website Review: FreelanceWorkExchange.com

With all of the freelance classified-type sites out there like Guru.com and Grammatika.com that cost close to $100 just to get in the door and see if they are any good, it was refreshing to see FreelanceWorkExchange.com offer a week trial for $2.95 to test the waters and see if it was any good. At best, it will get me some work and keep me drinking the brand of beer I like. I worst, it would be a very small write-off on the income taxes. I would still drink the beer I like, by the way. It's the beer in the white can that says in big, black letters "BEER" on the side.

You get used to it.

Let me start off by saying that FreelanceWorkExchange.com has a very nice referral program. For every one of you that I refer to the website, and if you sign up for free trial, I get roughly $6. That's a hell of a lot for a referral program. If you continue on with the site, I will get 30% of your monthly fee. That's about $15 a month per person I refer. I could get on here and write every article about how great FreelanceWorkExchange.com is and end up making a lot of beer money each month. Hell, I could bump up to the next level of beer quality: Budweiser.

FreelanceWorkExchange.com reminds me of those kookey doctors that go on and on about the miracles of magnet therapy to cure the latest strain of STD that's going around. I've been swallowing magnets for a month, and I'm here to tell you that the only magic going on is the discoloration of my computer monitor every time I fart. Magnet therapy doesn't work. And neither will you if you spend all of your time at FreelanceWorkExchange.com.

The layout of the website is nice. They got that right. It looks professional and inviting. There are links that invitingly and temptingly advertise "Jobs For Writers" and "Jobs For Designers", along with jobs for editors, illustrators, programmers, consulters, photographers, and on and on. They offer free job reports, free ebooks, and success tips that'll have you drinking the good beer in no time.

Great! Sign me up! $2.95 will get me working, and quick!

And then, reality hits.

When you go through the pearly gates of FreelanceWorkExchange.com's login, you see that -- to continue our magnet metaphor -- these magnets aren't really holding things on the fridge that well.

Sure, you get free advice tips. They just happen to be in the form of spam-like emailings you get three or four times a day spouting off information you read in the pamphlet "So, You'd Like To Work At Home" when you were sitting on the crapper at Barnes and Noble, flushing out three Cafe Mochas in a matter of forty-five minutes. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting some sage advice here. But I wasn't looking for spam, either.

The free job report? It's a set of tips I wrote about on this here blog. You get sage advice like "don't isolate yourself" and "post on message boards." You get about two or three sentences explaining each item. But, again, it's nothing you've never heard before. And it didn't cost you $3 when you heard them.

Now, let's get to the jobs listings. Before we do, though, let's go back to those magnet doctors. Have you ever heard them talk? They'll say something very vague and misleading in hopes that you won't listen to them. Very much like a politician:

These magnets attract the iron in your blood, you see. And the iron itself becomes magnetized. Pain has a negative energy, ya know, because nobody likes pain, therefore it's negative. The magnets have a positive pole, and that's why you put the positive pole against your sore spot. Positive energy fights negative energy. Your iron-filled cells are magnetized by this positive energy and negates the negativity at the source!


This is the same feeling I get from the job listings on the site. This is an exact copy of a job listing. Notice the lack of any specific details or needs by the employer.

Contribute to a Women's Magazine
Can you write articles that would appeal to a broad women's audience? If so, this company may have an opportunity for you. You must be a good writer and journalist with a creative mind and the ability to come up with good ideas for content.


When you click on a link, you just get a form that is pre-filled out with all of your information. Whether or not anybody actually gets it is anybody's guess.

There you go. I personally think FreelanceWorkExchange.com is a scam. It's a nifty way to get $3 for permission to send you spam thinly veiled as important and secret information that will make you millions. And yes, they claim you could make millions through their site.

Now, I'm off to my thirty-year old pulltab beer and to find another website to review. Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Free Free Freelancin'

When freelancing -- and when running any kind of business at all -- getting your office set up cheaply is one of the hardest things you will have to do. If you do it legally (which I'm sure you do), all of the software required by the modern freelancer will cost more than anything else in your office. Microsoft Office Small Business alone costs $320 from Amazon.

Then, you have to buy the whole Adobe suite if you are going to handle documents being sent back and forth. My graphic designer only uses the Adobe suite, so I had to go buy that if I was going to do anything with her. (She's worth it, by the way. Contact me if you have any projects in need of a good graphic artist.)

So, what's a cheap sole proprietor to do in these days of expensive intellectual property?

Two words: Open source

Open source software is software that is basically open to the public to constantly modify and improve, thus creating a product for the public, by the public, that integrates all of the features that the public wants most.

Oh, and open source software is free. Not free as in, "Free software for 30 days. Then you lose everything unless we get your $750." I'm talking free free. What's-under-your-kilt free.

Even though I have Microsoft Office, I have been using Open Office lately for all of my office needs. With this free bundle, you get a very close replica of Microsoft's Office suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a Draw program that "will produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations and special effects."

What about email?

I use Thunderbird. I never used Outlook, so I don't really know how easy it was. But Thunderbird has everything I'll ever need. I have two email accounts: work and pleasure. I have Thunderbird separate both accounts and color code them when I get them, so at a glance I can separate emails from my wife asking me to grab some bread at the store from the emails from a client asking about my pricing.

Want Norton protection without the Norton price? Go with Clamwin. It allows you to scan your computer for viruses using a fast, multi-threaded search, and it fully integrates with your email client for attachment scanning. Since it is open source, the virus definition database is constantly updating. A new virus definition could be sitting in your Clamwin anti-virus program literally seconds after it has made its first appearance. You can't pay for that kind of protection... and you won't. It's free.

There are millions of open source programs out there for everyone to use. It's up to you to decide if you want to use it or spend hundreds buying its commercial counterpart.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Getting Things Done: Working from home when you can't work at home

This is knowledge taken from my college days: I cannot, without a shadow of a doubt, work within the confines of my own home.

Between the dogs, the TV, all of the snacks in the kitchen, the phone, the neighbors, etc., my house is a brothel of unproductive temptation. I think, "I could work on this manuscript...... or make some cookies!" Easy decision, until you realize that batch of cookies cost $50 in lost productivity.

I love working from home, even though I can't work at home. But I'm too cheap to rent out office space.

Enter the local library.

I am a writer / editor / proofreader. I don't need a helluva lot of space. I usually load everything I need into my JanSport, grab a bottle of water, go by the bakery and have them make me some bagel chips (more info below), and spend my day at the library.

Libraries are losing a lot of respect. There are cell phones going off, kids screaming, inattentive parents not caring that their kids are screaming, and kids smoking weed in the bathroom.

(I know this goes on because, well... where do you think I learned about bagel chips?)

However, I get so much more done at the library than at home. Productivity flows, despite the distractions, due to actually getting up, showering, and getting dressed for public display. I usually find a back corner somewhere where the librarians can't see me eat and drink all day and the kids won't trip over my bag and laptop cords.

Libraries are perfect for those of us who can't get crap done at home but can't afford renting office space. And, as long as your home office is used as your primary base for business, it's still tax deductible. Score all around.

So, praise ye Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of the public library system. You would roll over in your grave if you knew what I could look up on the public internet computer here.

(Bagel Chips: go to the bakery and have them slice the bagels in the bread slicer instead of the bagel slicer. They'll look at you weird at first, but man are they good!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Welcome, Members of the Pencil Revolution

Thanks to my post over at Pencil Revolution, I may be getting some more (read: some of my first) visitors to this up-and-coming site.

I am obviously in need of some contributors and some other help. If you want to help along (and received loads of credit), email me and I'll get you started.

I hope you liked the article.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Basic Rules of the Freelancer

I've been reading a lot of articles lately about freelancing and how to succeed at whatever type of freelance work you do. No matter what type of freelance business you run, there seems to be a set of basic rules that will set the foundation of your business and will keep it going strong. The following are a few of the Freelance Rules to Live By. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

  1. Don't Be Afraid To Say No. This applies to everything from not overworking yourself to not bending your artistic integrity. While I wouldn't suggest anyone say "NO!" right away, especially when first starting off as a freelancer, I would say that this rule has a lot of merit. All of the books warn against being a freelance workaholic, working 18 hours a day in your tiny hole of a home office. Turning down a few jobs just to keep your sanity -- and relationships -- in check is definitely something you need to do. However, if your client (the one who pays you) needs you to make a few corrections or make some changes to the project you have completed, I would go light on the nos and flex your compromising muscles.
  2. For the love of God, never miss a deadline! There is no quicker way to fail as a freelancer than to miss a deadline. Even if your mom goes face first into her bowl of crab bisque and you stub your toe on the way to the funeral home, those excuses won't matter to the guy 1,000 miles away who needs your promotional materials lest he lose his job. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!
  3. Part of being a good freelancer is being a good business person. It's important that you keep records, pay your taxes, and buy your licenses and permits. Join the Small Business Association of your town (and maybe even the town next to yours) and network like a pro. Send Christmas cards to clients, take people out to eat, buy people drinks. It's all tax deductible, so why not?
  4. Take some time every week and improve your skills. Many large corporations require their employees to improve their knowledge and skills before being promoted. Why should your business be any different? Take some time and take an art class, go to a lecture, or read a book. Do something completely unrelated to your business. Take a cooking class if you're a writer. Take Yoga if you are a videographer. Believe me, it'll help. There is no such thing as a wasted experience.
  5. Have fun! The most important thing about being a freelancer is to have fun. We don't go into business for ourselves to hate our jobs and constantly wish for something more. Do little things that add up to make working for yourself a real pleasure. Play your iTunes really loudly, work in your underpants, post pictures of Angeline Jolie all around. I personally drink wine while I work. I maybe go through a glass a day. While not much, it helps set the mood for my office and greases up the old creative gears and gets things flowing.


I would be interested in your rules of being a successful freelancer. Comment with your tips, and I will update at a later time.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Everybody's a freelancer!

I suppose this qualifies as freelancing, though very loosly so.

And there's special emphasis on loose:

Discreet, fun, starving student seeks wealthy man to be treated well.

10 Things Learned in 180 Days

Think making the switch to full-time freelancing is right for you?

Take the sage advice from Cameronmoll.com. He writes the 10 Things Learned in 180 Days. He made the mistakes so you don't have to. Some of the better points:

* Avoid Monday deadlines
* Say no as often as you say yes
* Be chummy with your point of contact

Definitely worth a read, especially if you are just starting out.

My personal point: get a damn keyboard that works. These pretzels are making me thirsty!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Guru.com anybody?

I've been searching around all of the career websites lately looking for freelance jobs, but it's hard to market as a freelancer to companies looking for permanent positions.

I even constantly browse Craig's List to see what kinds of freelance help wanted ads are being posted. I apply to many, but I only get very few responses.

Enter Guru.com. You have to pay a hefty price - $75 for a quarter of a year -- but there seems to be a lot of people looking for freelancers. The cost would definitely be deductable as a business expense, but is the service worth the price? Will I make the money back, and quick?

My inspirator

This guy's book was what made me blieve that I could become a freelance writer.

If anything, he knows how to make you feel excited about working on your dreams.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

First post

This is the obligatory first post / mission statement / whatever the hell.

I am a creator. I have always been a creator. And any time I have ever gone astray from that identity, I have suffered mentally and emotionally.

I am also a homebody. I love staying at home. I hate going to an office every day, getting told on Friday night that I would have to work the weekend, and being snooped upon by efficiency experts. That sucks. Balls.

So, I am freelancing. And, I am noticing that there isn't any kind of blog out there directing people where to get information, where to find resources, and how to find jobs.

Since I am a writer, many of my writings will focus on the written aspects of freelance: writing, copy writing, editing, copy editing, etc. I also take part in research, dictation, transcribing, etc. Basically, whatever I can get my grimy hands on, I'll do it. And no, I don't mean prostitution, however anything is negotiable.

I could always use some people on my team to write about the other facets of freelance: art, programming, design, etc, etc, etc. If that's you, email me to get on the blogging team.

I'm off to edit this ugly ol' template.

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