How to Create a Home Office with Limited Space

Working from home is quickly becoming the new normal for many people worldwide. And while there are advantages to working from home, one of the biggest challenges can be finding a space to set up your office. If you don’t have a lot of extra room in your home, don’t worry! You can still create a functional and stylish home office with limited space.


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Use the Space You Have

First, take inventory of the space you do have. A spare bedroom? An empty corner in the living room? Even a nook under the stairs can transform into a workable home office with a bit of creativity. Once you identify your potential workspace, it’s time to think about how to make it work for you.

You need to be smart about storage. For example, wall-mounted shelves can hold all your office supplies and a small filing cabinet can tuck neatly under a desk. If you don’t have room for a traditional desk chair, try using an ottoman or exercise ball. And if you’re tight on space, consider a laptop stand that can be tucked away when you’re not using it.

Convert a Closet to a Home Office

One way to create a home office with limited space is to convert your closet. For shallow closets, you can simply remove the closet doors and add a few shelves for storage. One corner or side of a walk-in closet can become a home office without sacrificing too much space for clothing. Prioritize good light to avoid eye strain; replace light fixtures or bring in a desk lamp.

Create A Partition

Another way to create a home office with limited space is to use part of another room. Set off the space with a curtain or screen to create privacy and avoid distractions. This is an excellent option if you don’t have an extra room to dedicate to a home office. If other family members might use the space while you’re working, consider investing in noise-canceling headphones.

If it’s in your budget and you need a more permanent division of space, you can hire someone (like The Patch Boys if you’re in the Pittsburgh area) to put up drywall. This can be especially useful if you need to have an office space separate from the rest of the house. By putting up drywall, you can delineate the space and make it feel more like its own room.

However, a drywall divider doesn’t have to be permanent. You can create a false wall by attaching drywall to the ceiling and then suspending it from the floor. This will complete the illusion of a second wall and make the room feel more spacious.

Be Creative with Your Home Office

There are many ways to get creative with limited space and still create a highly functional home office. With a little bit of planning and some clever design tricks, you can make the most of any room – no matter how small. So if you’re tight on square footage but big on ideas, put these tips and tricks to work and make your dream home office a reality.

Share your tips for a small home office space in the comments!

How to Be a Writer

I came across something interesting while testing out the free version of the Moz SEO toolset recently. The first search term I ran through their keyword research tool was “writing.” It’s a broad topic that apparently has over 73,500 monthly searches, but I wanted to know what about writing people were most often researching. What burning questions about my industry could I help answer? Or, gee, what questions am I not asking myself? And while picking through a thousand results, I saw it. “How to be a writer.” Clocking in at 4,950 monthly searches.

I tried the search to see what answers were out there. So many lists! Here, 10 steps you HAVE to take. There, a structured guide on developing a writing career. And don’t forget a breakdown of writing jobs and their average salaries. All of them are useful and provide valuable information. None of them mention identifying as a writer.

How To Be A Writer

“If you want to be a writer, don’t do things that will kill your writing.”

Kerri Majors, “This is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World”

This is, by far, my favorite answer from one of my favorite books on tackling mindset issues as a writer. It’s followed closely by a parenthetical I also love: “I’m still going to call you Writer, because in your heart and soul, that’s what you are, regardless of the type of writing you are drawn to.”

Not all writers want to write books. Not all writers are paid. But all writers like to write in some form.

Habits to Become a Writer

Write every day. Study writing. Read like a writer. Read books X, Y, and Z. Subscribe to writerly blogs, newsletters, podcasts, social media accounts, smoke signals.

Every list of habits on how to be a writer includes these things. As if doing all these things, somehow, means you’ll wake up one day and brush your teeth like a writer. But these lists aren’t instructions on how to transform yourself from some ho-hum humanoid into a sparkly, majestic writer. They’re just general tips on how to nurture your inner writer and keep in tune with the craft.

And I’ll tell you right now: I am a writer, and I

  • don’t put words on the page every day (but there’s more to writing than getting words out)
  • have a degree in writing, which helps but isn’t necessary
  • read lots of things like a normal person who just wants to read a damn book
  • have tried to read books X, Y, and Z and didn’t enjoy them, so I stopped
  • have unsubscribed to many writerly content streams I didn’t enjoy

I tried everything every list and book said I should do. The plain truth is not everything works for everybody. I ditched whatever so-called have-tos drained my energy and made writing feel like a chore.

If you want to know how to be a writer, think more about why you want to be a writer. Figure out what drives you to write. Do things that work with your energy, not against it.

What do you do to nurture your inner writer? Please share in the comments!

Second Place Cravings and Confessions

I couldn’t have been more surprised when I won my first writing award seven years ago. I didn’t even know I was competing until I heard my name called. The journalism piece I wrote was incomplete, too. How could it win anything?

During my last year of college, student media staff members were encouraged to plan a piece of literary journalism. Something big and impressive to put on our recent-graduate résumés. My project: an in-depth feature on the school’s award-winning equestrian team.

It was a huge undertaking. Featuring several multimedia components, including embedded audio from interviews and supplemental video content, I planned to spend most if not all of the school year on it. The other editors contributed their expertise. Together, we built a fully customized microsite to host what would have been the grand finalé of my career as a student journalist.

And it would have been grand… If only I had planned my time better.

The more experienced Amanda of today would have completed all four chapters of the feature–and all their multimedia bells and whistles–before publishing a single one. I also would have started over the summer break before classes and homework ate up most of my time.

But Past Amanda was too busy to think about her own writing. As the chief copy editor at the time, I edited everyone else’s work. I spent three months of my summer break going back and forth on frustrating revisions for another writer. I gave her a maximum word count of 1500, and she sent me 4000. I took it down to 3000 and told her to cut half of it. She sent me back the original 4000 and asked me to pare it down for her.

I did. Twice.

When I finally got to work on my own project, I only completed the first chapter, which focused on one of the equestrian team’s co-captains. The second chapter would have featured the facilities and the horses–my favorite was a one-eyed horse named Gaston. Chapter three would have explored the team’s training and competitions. Finally, chapter four would have explored what sort of equestrian-related careers students at an art school were pursuing.

By the time January 2015 rolled around, I realized I was in trouble. I was never going to finish it before the winter quarter ended in March. As a soon-to-be writing program graduate, I had to hire my successor to take over in the spring. I abandoned my project and focused on helping prepare the new staff for their responsibilities.

Then, in February, our staff was invited to attend a two-day conference and communications workshop series at Savannah State University. At the end was an award ceremony. Since the only attendees from my school were myself, our advisor, and one other editor, we stayed to accept any awards on behalf of our team.

Since I didn’t think I had anything in the running, I focused on enjoying my cake and clapping for all the winners. It took me a minute to realize they actually meant me when they called my name. I went up in front of the room and got my plaque: second place winner for “Outstanding Feature Writing” in the large university division.

Then an even bigger shock hit.

The first-place award for the same category, the same division, went to the piece I spent three months of my summer editing.

It’s not a pretty thing to admit, but I felt a little cheated at the time. So much of what made that piece a first-place winner was my hard work, but I wasn’t credited anywhere. Only a handful of people knew all the work I put into it. But to everyone else, I might not have touched it at all.

For years, it was an awkward topic for me. I wanted to point to my accomplishments and be honest about my work. Instead, I worried I’d be perceived as petty, bitter, or selfish.

It’s normal to crave recognition for your efforts. It’s nice to know you accomplished something and someone else knows it.

The piece I edited and helped revise won first place. I’m proud of that. The piece I wrote and never finished won second place. That is a crazy thing to be able to say about anything! Why wouldn’t I be proud of that? Just because it came with difficult emotions that sucked for a long time doesn’t take away the accomplishment. And that’s way better than free cake.

Blog Reinvention Gets Messier Each Time

The longer I looked at my screen to assess the damage, the more I cringed. I could not delete things fast enough. This should have been taken care of years ago. I thought it was. Unfortunately, I had to go on a very unwelcome trip down memory lane through all of my oldest blog posts.

Many moons ago, I chose to buy my domain and self-host this site. A couple friends and I got on Skype to figure out how to do that ourselves in the middle of the night. As the process went on, we devolved into playing the anthem of the time on the hour every hour we worked on this. I mean, what else would you be listening to at 3 a.m.?

Ahhhh, memories.

I have no idea how long it took or how many times we asked each other what the fox says. But once it was resolved, we didn’t have to mess with the hosting or many other technical aspects of running a blog for a long time.

Until recently, when my friend let me know he was shutting down his server soon, so he’d help me get my site hosted elsewhere.

Up until 2014, my site had free hosting on WordPress.com. When I bought my domain, we essentially cloned the site and rebuilt it on WordPress.org. The old version on WordPress.com was still there, but invisible to the public because of a domain redirect we set up. Based on my needs and available options, I chose to return to WordPress.com. It wasn’t a complicated process on my end. Most of it came down to waiting for my content files (pages and blog posts) to import into WordPress.com.

I expected this to completely replace all the content that had been collecting dust since 2014, but I was wrong. Every blog post I’d ever made since 2010 was still right there. Even worse: it was the design I used in 2014.

This could have been a great opportunity to examine how far I’ve come. All I’ve learned about user experience design, basic SEO, content creation, and treating a blog as a business instead of a diary. Maybe it would have been entertaining to pick one or two to show off as an example of what it was like when I first started out.

Nope. That was disgusting.

Instead, I went on a deleting rampage.

Once that was over, I found new hurdles. All the plugins I’d gotten used to on WordPress.org? I could get some of them back maybe… if I paid for a more expensive hosting plan than I really need right now. The modern layout design theme I enjoyed for the last few years? Unavailable.

Like it or not, we’re in refine and reinvent mode over here. And it’s going to be messy.

How I Fixed My Biggest Blogging Issue

Whether you’re just starting a blog or you’ve been doing it for years, coming up with post topics can be a struggle. I frequently check out lists of blog post prompts for inspiration. Typically, only a handful spark an idea. I might jot down some initial thoughts and return to them later when I have more time. But I usually end up tossing my partial drafts because they suddenly don’t seem as interesting or like anyone will want to read them.

Even when I power through the imposter syndrome and come up with a small backlog of content to publish, it doesn’t last very long. I’m right back to where I started. My empty content calendar mocks me.

One day, when it was cold in my office, I decided to work in front of the fireplace. I grabbed a notebook and opened another list of prompts on my phone. I figured I’d make a list of the ideas I liked to go back to whenever I sat down to write a new post.

It should be easy to be inspired by a list I created, right? But as my list grew longer, it grew more daunting. Sure, I had more than enough to publish once a week for the whole year. But how would I figure out which ones to publish when? Could I even write that many posts in a single year? I tried not to think about it too much and continued writing ideas on my list.

There’s a magic to writing things out by hand instead of typing. That magic led me to stumble on a totally obvious but absolutely brilliant solution.

After numbering every prompt I wrote down (I still can’t believe I found more than 60 I liked!), I used a random number generator to pick four as a test. If I focused on just one month at a time, it couldn’t be that overwhelming. But I didn’t imagine this simple process would make planning out blog content enjoyable.

Being a one-person team managing your own brand or small business can be stressful. There’s no one to delegate tasks to unless you hire outside help. Every decision is yours to make, and there’s no one around to help gauge if you’re making good choices.

But leaving just a little bit of the decision-making up to chance made it so much easier to handle. My list is made up of prompts I know apply to me. I don’t have to sift out irrelevant ideas. Once I have my prompt, I can get to work.

And if that week’s prompt isn’t inspiring enough, I can swap it out with a different random number.

So simple.

If you struggle to come up with new content ideas week after week, I highly recommend giving this a try.

Find Support to Protect Your Mental Health

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When you have to cope with things throughout the workday that can affect your mental health, it’s important to get familiar with your usual triggers. Maybe, with a few adjustments, you can avoid some stressors altogether. But if you can’t avoid them, there’s one thing to do. Figure out the support system that works best for you and ensure you have easy access to it.

Try Mental Health Support Apps

For support you can take with you wherever you are, you might consider apps designed to support your mental health. These are great for when smaller triggers come up. You can put in your headphones or take your phone to a quiet place and do some simple exercises to ground yourself. But you don’t need to be prone to anxiety attacks to benefit from one of these apps. Guided meditation, affirmations, and mindfulness programs are good ways to check in with yourself even when nothing is wrong.

Talk To Someone

Another option to cope with a variety of issues is simply to talk to someone about how you are feeling. This can be a friend, family member, or therapist. You can also write in a journal, especially if circumstances prevent you from seeking the appropriate person right away. Some people find it beneficial to write their immediate thoughts and feelings down, then bring those notes to a therapy session to process later in a safe space.

Seek Help From a Mental Health Professional

Bigger struggles need more support from qualified individuals. This might mean setting up weekly appointments with a therapist to process issues and develop actionable strategies to protect your mental health. It might also mean consulting a psychiatrist to diagnose conditions that can be treated with medication. For some people, rehab or group programs provide the most effective kind of support.

Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. has some form of mental illness according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you’re struggling, remember it’s never too late to get the help you need.

Brand Styling: Matching the Best Visuals to Your Business

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Designing visuals for a business can be a challenging process. In the past, this work was largely done by professional designers. Companies would outsource the work or have their own graphic designers on staff.

In recent years, entrepreneurs and small business owners have shifted toward learning to do their own brand styling. For those without a background in design, knowing what goes into good design is only half the challenge. The other half: making a design to match your business.

Color

Color has long been used in the world of design and art to convey feelings and ideas. Little else is needed to inspire a basic emotion. Blue, for example, often evokes calmness, tranquillity, and peace. You often see it used by businesses in the healthcare industry. Red conveys passion and heat, making it better for a business in high-energy industries, like sports or fitness.

Shapes

Initially, shapes might seem like a simple thing to pick. Choosing the right shapes for your logo and other design elements is crucial for your design to work for your business. Like color, different industries often rely on similar shapes. Engineering companies, for example, typically stick to minimal designs featuring straight, precise lines.

Fonts

Fonts are a designer’s best friend. They also have to play nicely with your colors and shapes to create a cohesive visual style. A good place to start: look back at your shapes. Create harmony with your font. An elegant script wouldn’t look right next to minimalist color blocks, would it? On the other hand, if you already know the general style of font you want to associate with your business, find shapes that complement that style.

Layouts

Finally, it’s time to think about your content layout. This includes everything: your website, flyers, and other marketing materials. A consistent layout–working with your colors and shapes–makes it easier for your customers to recognize your brand before they even read your name.

Establishing a range of set layouts makes it much easier to keep your work consistent across the board. Luckily, this process is as simple as making some sketches. Having access to a good web design company like WEBX360 can make your life much easier as you start to go through this, giving you the chance to leave the hard work to someone else.

Brand Styling: Where It All Comes Together

Once you’ve finished working out these elements, you have the opportunity to see it all come together. Unfortunately, this can turn frustrating if you don’t have the skills or the interest in learning them to be your own designer. For some businesses, you might not need many graphics beyond a logo. Thankfully, there are a lot of DIY logo builders around the web, and many of these tools are free.

Whether you’re just building your brand or looking to refresh its style, these elements are the basics to brand styling. It’s a good idea to routinely ask if your designs match your business, or if they could be improved. Remember: as your business grows, it’s normal for some things to change. Just be sure everything stays in harmony and your visuals still work for you.


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Using Social Media to Boost Your Blog Performance

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Social media plays a strong part of blog performance if used the right way. You might share your blog posts on your personal social media accounts, but you can do a lot more. Setting up social pages for your blog allows you to not just share your posts but create a real community around your blog. It’s a good way to find new visitors and subscribers for your blog, as well as to engage with your existing fans. It can also be a good way to find opportunities for your blog if you want to make money from it.

Set Up Accounts for Your Blog

The first thing you can do is set up accounts for your blog. You might continue to use personal accounts if your blog is part of your personal brand. They might be under your own name if you also want to grow your personal brand, but using the name of your blog is a smart idea.

But if your blog is going to be its own thing, it’s smart to have dedicated social accounts just for your blog. Some social media platforms have special options if you want to set up a page for a blog or business. It will give you extra functionality and ways to track the performance of your account that you might not get with a personal account. These extra analytics show exactly how social media affects your blog performance, and where you can improve.

Share New Posts and More

After setting up your social accounts, you can start posting. Of course, posting your own blog posts is a good idea. You can share them in different ways, using images or quotes to highlight them.

Sharing both new and old posts will help to vary the content you share too. But it’s also important to share other things so that your activity isn’t completely focused on sharing your own content. Your audience is interested in other things too, so make sure it’s not all self-promotion.

Engage with People on Social Media

Don’t forget about the social part of social media! It’s not all about promoting your blog and ignoring everyone else. You need to connect and engage with others if you really want social media to work for you.

You should learn how to repost on Instagram and how to share other people’s posts on other platforms so you can boost their efforts. You should comment on people’s posts and perhaps even contact them more directly to engage with them.

Make It Easy to Share Your Content

If you want other people to share your content, make sure it’s easy for them to do. One of the things you can do is add social media buttons to your blog posts. If someone wants to share one of your posts, all they need to do is click the right button. Link to your social pages on your blog, too, so people can follow you.

Social media can give your blog’s performance a significant boost. But you have to use it effectively if you want it to benefit you.

5 Profitable Ways to Invest Your Blogging Income

For the average person, a blog doesn’t generate a lucrative income. It’s usually a side gig that pays for its own expenses. But if you have enough profit–and you don’t need a lot to start–you could invest some of your extra cash.

Every investment opportunity is different, but none should be taken lightly. If you’re thinking about investing, these are some ideas to help you begin your research.


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Invest in Real Estate

Homeownership is a huge investment. Usually, you can bet on the value of a house to go up after you purchase it. That’s not even factoring in any improvements or upgrades! While it can take longer before you reap the benefits of your investments, the payout of your eventual home sale can be massive.

Of course, buying a home is an expensive investment. If it’s something you really want but it seems out of reach, look into the programs available from The Federal Housing Association (FHA) and review the FHA FAQs. Owning a home might be more realistic than you think!

Invest in Dividend Stock Funds

Buying stocks is probably what most people think of when they think about investing. This slow and steady investment strategy is a relatively safe way to build up a nest egg, or set yourself up for a big payout after you retire. In addition to long-term profits, you can also sell your stocks for more immediate funds.

Purchase Fractional Shares of Stocks

When you start looking at companies to buy stock in, the biggest and most mature ones seem like the safest bet, right? But the cost of even a single share can be more than you’re willing to risk. Fortunately, you don’t have to buy the whole thing. You can try purchasing fractional shares instead. While this makes for a less risky approach to high-priced stocks, it also means your potential profits will be smaller. If you buy 10% of a share, you’ll get 10% of its dividends.

Cryptocurrency

For those unafraid about riskier opportunities, cryptocurrency is a popular investment choice. Bitcoin has doubled in price and is expected to continue growing. Not every cryptocurrency sees the same success, however. Values can be volatile, so be sure to only invest as much money as you can safely afford to lose. 

Create Partnerships with Other Brands

As the person behind your blog, there are brands and products you enjoy and sometimes rely on. However, you can do more with these when you think like a business. It doesn’t hurt to reach out to the brands you like and inquire about partnership or ambassador opportunities. You may not think of yourself as an influencer, but it’s one way to get a return on your investment in others.

Conclusion

A lot of bloggers choose to reinvest their profits back into their blog to help it generate more income. But there are many other options to help you build your wealth over time.

Note: The content in this post is for general informational purposes only and does not address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Such information or other material should not be construed as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.


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How You Can Give Back As a Writer

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There are many ways to give back and put some good into the world. From volunteering to giving money to charity, you don’t have to look hard to find a cause you can believe in.

In addition to traditional donations to charity, as a writer, you can also use your skills to help out in a number of ways.

Offer preferential rates for good causes

Charities, nonprofits, and other good causes all need to have a presence: a website, social media, or other marketing materials. However, their resources are limited.

By offering your services at a discounted rate, nonprofits can benefit from a professional working on their materials. You might choose to offer a discounted rate for all charities and non-profits, or those in a particular area.

For example, if you’re local to Austin, Texas, and issues relating to substance abuse are close to your heart, you might reach out to somewhere like https://www.sunshinebehavioralhealth.com/texas/austin/.

Use your network

Sometimes it’s all about who you know. Many charities and good causes have to fight to get their messages heard. Using your own network to promote fundraising, community events, and awareness campaigns can do wonders.

Not only will you amplify an important message. You can help it reach others who can do more to promote the charity, or even someone who would benefit from it. The most common ways to do this are to use your social media channels, LinkedIn network, or even e-mail your client base to try and raise the profile of your chosen cause.

Pro bono work

Why not offer to do a little pro bono work for your chosen charity? Any help you can offer will be well received and give their comms a professional edge, whether it’s writing copy for a website or brochure, or drafting a press release to get their story coverage.

Mentoring

There a lots of people out there who would love to do what you do. Give people the benefit of your experience by offering your time to mentor someone. You can do this on an informal basis, by posting on your LinkedIn or social media channels that you’re looking to offer your time as a professional mentor. Or you can sign up to a more official scheme that matches you up with someone. You can even see if your employer offers a mentorship program!

Mentoring can be very rewarding for both parties and gives you the opportunity to guide someone through the uncertainties in their career path.

Final thoughts

However you choose to give back, you’re doing a great thing. As a writer or content creator, you can also use your skills to help out in other ways too. You can still make a huge difference.

Why Are You Failing to Convert More Customers?

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Are you struggling to convert as many customers as you hoped? If so, then it might be time to start thinking about making some changes to your business model. Thankfully, when it’s time to make changes to your marketing strategy, there are a few easy ways to begin.

Lost In The Loop

Your customers may get lost on their way to a complete conversion. The reason could be a problem with your site structure. Ideally, your site should follow the three-click rule.

Customers should never be more than three clicks away from a page they are looking for on your website. Or, more than three clicks from converting. Issues with site structure aren’t always easy to fix or address. You might need to think about hiring a web designer to correct any issues that could be present here. 

Bad Reviews

Unfortunately, you might also have some bad reviews around your business online. This is always going to be enough to turn off some potential customers. The good news is it’s easy to correct an issue like this. First, you need to identify the bad reviews including any negative mentions.

There are tracking apps available online that are going to make this simple. Once you find negative reviews connected to your business, you should address them directly. Make sure that you look at the pain point of the customer in question and what you can do to fix the issue they are dealing with. 

Poor Marketing 

It could be that your main problem is you’re just using a poor marketing solution. If that’s the case, then you should consider getting an outside perspective and finding a marketing service that will deliver the results you hope for.

Finding the right marketing team will require extensive research. You should think about also looking at referrals. Be aware that you must avoid a cookie-cutter solution. A service like Live Calls Network reviews different marketing approaches to find the right strategy for you–instead of pitching a one-size-fits-all solution. 

A Weak CTA

Finally, it’s important to constantly lead your customers where you want them to go. If you want customers to convert, then it’s vital you use the right CTA, or call to action. This shows customers the next step they should take. A strong call to action can make all the difference. If you’re not sure how to write one, use a pro marketer. They’ll write something that resonates with your specific audience. 

The good news is that it’s not too late to turn the situation around and get things back on track. You just need to make sure you approach marketing and the pitch you present to your customers the right way.


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Is Your Writing Ritual in Need of a Refresh?

We all have our writing ritual–things we do to get in the zone and make the words flow. I start by tidying my desk space to remove distractions. Then I’ll light a candle or burn some sage or palo santo, put on some music, and quietly absorb the ambiance I’ve created for a few minutes. Sometimes I’ll also make coffee or tea, or have a glass of wine.

But some days, you can do everything to set the right mood, but the magic still doesn’t happen. The words are still stuck. So what’s the problem?

In my case, it’s usually a sign that the scene I’m working on isn’t quite right. Maybe I have two characters agreeing when they should be fighting, or they’re going further out of their way than they need to.

But it can also be a sign that your writing ritual needs a little adjustment. It took me a while to nail down what exactly I needed to change to get the juices flowing again, so I wanted to share some of the things I use to get into the writing mood in case your ritual needs something different.


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Workspace

It took a few months of trial and error to find the best place for my desk. The biggest obstacles were the blinding morning light coming from the window, the lack of overhead lighting, and where all the power outlets are. I ended up angling my desk into the corner by the window so I still get lots of natural light without it causing a glare on my screen or blinding me. Also, the rest of my office space is behind me, so there are fewer distractions in my line of sight.

Comfort was another big thing. While I loved the freedom a wireless mouse and keyboard afforded, I was often replacing batteries. Neither was particularly ergonomic, either. I’ve since switched back to a wired keyboard and upgraded to a vertical mouse.

I would also consider buying a pair of compression gloves to wear while I type part of my writing ritual. Between tendonitis and poor circulation, my hands can stiffen up and ache while I write.

I like keeping as few things on my desk as possible. Unfortunately, that leaves plenty of room for a certain furry distraction.

Candles and Incense

For lingering scents, I have a lot to choose from thanks to Mythologie Candles. I found them through Instagram last year and I’ve bought many since. Rather than smelling like a specific fruit or flower, Mythologie Candles are inspired by folklore and fantasy. Each one evokes an immersive setting. My favorites for writing:

  • Cave Troll – My go-to writing candle because it smells like a forest on a cloudy day after the rain with a hint of musk. Excellent when paired with rainy day ambient noise.
  • Droppin’ Eaves – From the Spring In The Shire Collection, this blend of honeycomb, vanilla, and florals inspired me to write a perfume in my novel with a similar scent.
  • Blood Moon Sky – Bergamot is my favorite smell of all time, but mixed with musk and mulled black cherry, the whole effect is dark and sultry, inviting and mysterious. Perfect for writing the escpades of my cast of thieves and criminals.

Music

I used to have a carefully curated music library for writing. Back when I only had my laptop, I filled my iTunes library with movie and video game soundtracks, albums by instrumental groups who often produce the music used for movie trailers, and others.

But like most people, now I just stream music online. For writing, I usually go for 10-hour loops of Skyrim ambient music on YouTube or a Danheim-based station on Pandora. If I know a specific song or soundtrack that suits a specific scene I’m working on, it’s never more than a click away.

But this is the first part of my writing ritual to turn stale. It’s also the most distracting to fix since YouTube can take you far down the rabbit hole if you’re not paying attention. I keep my focus on the ambient mixes other users have created. It can take a little while to pick one, however. Sometimes an enchanted forest playlist inspires me more than dark academia sounds, even if my characters are nowhere near a forest.

What activities are part of your writing ritual?


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Powerful Digital Advertising Tools to Fit Your Budget

Please note: This is a contributed post. View full disclosure policy.

At first, digital advertising can seem like an impossible beast to tame for small business owners. You don’t have the same resources as a large corporation, so how can you hope to use the same tools? But there is good news. These digital advertising tools easily work with small budgets and staff.

Social Media

The focus of social media is no longer on connecting friends and families. It’s a marketing tool. Unfortunately, you’ll have better results if you can put money into your content strategy. But even if you have little to no budget for this, social media remains a powerful business tool.

This is your chance to get up close and personal with your clients and customers. You can promote your content and products to the general public and those who follow you personally. So, if you don’t already have one, join various social networking platforms and build a website.

Digital Advertising Agency Services

Because the online world is in constant flux, navigating the latest updates and practices can be tricky. As a result, it may be worthwhile to hire a digital agency to help you with your company’s online presence.

Don’t discount this idea if you can’t afford to hire an agency on a permanent basis. You can opt for a smaller contract where the agency will lay the groundwork. From there, you’ll have a more organized approach to handling your own digital advertising.

Press Releases

Press releases aren’t the most glamorous way of getting the word out, but they’re often overlooked. They’re also incredibly easy to write.

A press release is worthwhile if your company accomplished something significant or has a new product or service that deserves some media attention. These may be sent out by email to many sources, and with so many different networks and organizations out there, it’s definitely worth building up a mailing list.

You should also keep an eye out for industry-relevant magazines and websites that release news in your sector. Get in touch with their PR department to see if they’ll accept any news you release and publish it for their followers.

Search Enginge Optimization

Good ol’ SEO! Having a profitable online business always comes back to your search engine rankings.

This is another area where hiring pros may be beneficial, but there are a few things you can do yourself to improve your website’s SEO. Condensing photos and increasing the speed of your website are both good ideas. You should also be providing new content on a regular basis to boost your Google ranking.

The digital world is always evolving, and it may feel like you’re always one step behind. But it’s important to stay on top of it so you can take advantage of the finest opportunities to advertise your business online.


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Freelancer Availability: Why Less is Better Than More

When you work as a freelancer or own a small business, sometimes it feels like you can’t stop working. You set your own availability, so why shouldn’t you always have time to work? Maybe you already set aside time to step away from your computer and take breaks. But while you’re on “break,” do you still respond to emails from your phone?


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It’s not just a fast route to burnout you risk. Constant availability sets a precedent for your clients. If you let a client bully you into working beyond the terms of your contract because you think it counts as providing great customer service, they’ll expect 24/7 access to your time as standard.

With some slight adjustments to your availability, you can have a profitable, fulfilling freelance career without feeling like a commodity. 

Value Quality over Quantity

Are you always accepting new projects? Or do you only handle a select number at a time? When you’re just starting out, it might feel like you need to say yes to every job that comes your way. You have bills to pay, right?

With too many projects on your books, you can lose focus and struggle to perform your best. You might get paid by these clients in the short term. But any shortcomings can show up in reviews of your services. Maybe they won’t recommend you to others. In the long term, this could cost more money than it makes.

Set Clear Communication Expectations

If you respond to every email in 30 minutes or less, great! congratulations! But are you spending more time talking about a project than actually working on it?

Give your clients a realistic expectation of how often they should expect to hear from you. Use good judgment in whether emails require an immediate response or can wait. When in doubt, let your client know you received their message and will be able to address it at a specific time.

It might be obvious, but you should also keep your communications to as few platforms as possible. This will help avoid confusion and wasted time.

Another way to save time is to automatically answer the most common questions your business receives. The easiest method is to create an FAQ page on your website. You can also visit click4assistance the Chatbot provider to see how a chatbot can handle questions for you until you’d need to take over replies. 

Protect Your Free Time

More free time is one reason many people become freelancers. But in the midst of establishing a brand identity, attracting new clients, and getting everything done, suddenly free time is a distant dream.

Time management is your friend here. It’s not just about making sure you complete your projects. You need to have the most productive working time possible. Set timelines with personal deadlines three days ahead of when you actually need things done. Then you can enjoy your time off without impending deadlines hanging over your head.

To help make this a firm boundary both you and your clients can respect, consider creating an availability policy. Outside of certain times — like regular business hours — you don’t need to reply.

Free time is essential for everyone for minding your mental health. 

Outsourcing

When you’re a freelancer and don’t have the staff of a small business to distribute the workload, it can be beneficial to outsource some tasks. Just because you’re a one-person business doesn’t mean you can’t seek outside help when you need it.

Outsourcing can help break large projects with multiple moving parts into smaller, more manageable pieces. Thankfully, outsourcing as a freelancer is easier than ever with so many gig websites. 

Pricing

Freelancing is competitive. Many freelancers set their prices as low as possible to entice new clients. 

Unfortunately, unless it is explicitly a low rate just for them (and only at that time), they will expect the same rate when they return for more work. And, if they have shared your details and price, you might be locked into a lower rate – or having to explain that isn’t your actual rate. 

Raise your rates, and the right clients will pay the price. Wouldn’t you rather do one job worth over $2,500 than 20 jobs at $125 apiece?


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6 Building Blocks for Good Business Growth Strategy

Please note: This is a contributed post. View full disclosure policy.

One of the most important things your business needs is the chance to grow. The ability to generate new income and grow your customer base depends entirely on strategy. But business growth doesn’t happen overnight. You have to take your time to ensure your business is growing in the right way.

Everything from your basic business practices to your advertising strategy — whether handled in-house or through a white label digital advertising partnership — must be built with long-term growth in mind.

Get to know your customers

Understanding your target market is essential. This means going beyond building a hypothetical customer based on demographic data. You have to ask questions. Provide space to welcome feedback. You can only be certain you’re meeting your customers’ needs if you take the time learn what their needs actually are. From there, you can personalize every service you offer.

Make sure customer service is on point

When you’re a business providing a service, going the extra mile as often as you can will set you apart from your competitors. How your customers feel during their experience is just as important as their satisfaction with your product. They’ll be more likely to refer you to others.

Nurture existing customers

While working on bringing in new customers, don’t forget about the ones you already have. Keeping them happy and loyal to your brand ensures newcomers aren’t just replacing those you’ve lost along the way. Consider offering discounts or other special offers to those already paying for your services to remind them you value their business! 

Harness social media

Social media is one tool often underutilized to keep in contact with customers. Practice social listening when you use it to identify key customers and their thoughts. Without social media, your business won’t be attractive to as many new customers as it could be.

Be a networker

In business, it’s often about who, not what, you know. Networking both in-person and online puts a human face to your brand. More than that, it can lead to mutually beneficial relationships with other businesses. You have to invest your time as much as you would your money.

Look up local networking events within your community so you can meet existing and potential customers, introduce yourself to other businesses, and open your business up to new opportunities. Make sure you attend these events regularly to continuously build strong relationships and trust. It is also a good idea to invest in business cards or something unique, such as a flag supplier, to represent your company and ensure you make your business stand out from the rest. 

Work on giving back

Don’t underestimate the importance of being a brand with a good reputation and responsible relationship with your community. Invest time and money in charities and community projects. The more your business grows, the more power you have to do good.


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