.:The Internet Home Business Magazine for Moms & Dads:.


Becoming a Specialized Freelancer


One of the most important goals of Freelance Parent is to encourage others who are seriously pursuing their own freelancing careers by shining a spotlight on what it’s really like to start from the ground up.  It’s a little unnerving to reveal certain things about ourselves and our company, but we agreed early on to try and be as transparent as possible.  For that reason, I’d like to invite you all to share the recent thought processes and awakenings that have taken place as we continue to learn about and define our business. 

Sure, It’s About the Money; Except When It’s Not

 As a freelancer, I’m always considering how to utilize my skills to make money.  Of course, I also want to enjoy what I’m doing.  If I didn’t care about that, well then, I could have a regular office/service/manufacturing job where I showed up for eight hours a day just to get a paycheck.  (Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these occupations.  They’re just not for me.) 

Are They Really Talking About Finding Your Niche Again?

My particular field, for those of you playing along at home, is freelance writing.  When you look at the big, wide world of writing, you discover that there are a ton of options for writers.  This is true for freelance designers, artists, consultants, etc., too.  On the other hand, we keep harping on how a freelancer needs to choose a niche.  It’s easy to get starry-eyed and say, “Ooh.  I’d love to write for a women’s magazine . . . and design a travel company’s brochure . . . and put together some SEO-enhanced articles about dogs . . . and do anything else I can get paid to do.”  Sometimes you really do just have to buckle down and make some choices. 

Tamara and I realized early on that we weren’t sure where we wanted to focus.  So, when we created our business plan and set some preliminary goals, we incorporated that uncertainty.  At the end of the three months, we would review the work we’d done so far and choose what was working the best for us.  That deadline has come and gone, and our results were not necessarily what we would have expected.   

What Do You Really Want to Do?

After spending a few months actually doing the work, we learned that what we thought we wanted to do wasn’t necessarily always what we really wanted to do.  How fortunate are we to have incorporated some flexibility into our plan?  It would have been a real bummer to have printed up 5,000 brochures extolling our ability to write financial reports only to discover a few months later that we detest writing financial reports. 

Once again, here comes another testimonial about why it’s good to have a business partner.  One of the coolest things that we discovered was that while Tamara and I have overlapping interests, we also have some that are pretty divergent.  For example, she really, really enjoys writing ad copy.  I, on the other hand, just don’t have the nerve for it.  I am extremely interested in writing about environmental issues, while Tamara is sort of lukewarm on the topic.  She likes blogging; I love blogging.  We both have tons of interest in cultural issues, and we are both fanatical about supporting nonprofit organizations. 

Putting It All Together

So, have we found our niche?  Maybe.  Offering our freelance services to nonprofits might just be the perfect way to concentrate our efforts.  It incorporates our previous interest in supporting small businesses, and both of us have significant experience and/or education in the field.  Tamara could be the resident ad writer, and I could certainly help organizations get a start in blogging.  Tamara would be a rock star at editing their marketing materials, while I have a great grant-writing track record.  There are a lot of possibilities that would allow us an interesting variety of projects while still having a well-defined specialization. 

I know I’ve asked this question before, but I’ll throw it back out there again:  Have you defined your niche yet?  If not, do you just prefer to be a Jack-of-all-trades, or are you still narrowing down the field?  If so, what did you choose, and what were your motivations for doing so?  We are insanely interested in this topic, and I know that many of our readers are, too, so feel free to share, chat, or lecture away!

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Potty Training for Freelancers


I have a good friend from high school who recently moved back to town for the first time in nearly a decade. We’ve always gotten along quite well, so I was pretty excited to see her. Add to that the fact that her son is a mere two months younger than my daughter, and it was only natural that we would immediately start scheduling play dates like suburban mothers gone wild.  

We shall call this friend of mine “Supermom.”  

Supermom is a stay-at-home mother who loves what she does. (I say that because I know plenty of stay-at-home mothers who do it out of guilt, not love.) Her son is an adorable little toddler with whom my daughter just happens to be madly in cahoots. Supermom cooks, she cleans, she’s always upbeat, she looks stunning whenever I see her, and her not-even-two-years-old-yet son is potty trained.  

Take the opposite of each of those characteristics, and you have me. 

With the help of her sage advice, I have started an intensive potty training session of my own. The basic premise is this: just buy the underwear, make my daughter excited to wear it, force her sit on the little plastic potty every half hour, praise anything that comes out of her dear little body (no matter where it lands), and hope for the best. Although I refuse to mention how long Supermom had to do this before her son caught on (okay, five days—five freaking days!), I have been going strong for a week now with only mildly visible results. 

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a post on poop, so here’s my point: I’ve been finding eerily congruent themes in my approaches to potty training and freelancing. Think I’m crazy? Check this out. 

Just buy the underwear.  

Lorna and I did it—we up and bought the underwear. Granted, it was partially forced upon us by the company that laid us off, but we just stopped our professional lives as we knew them to begin this freelance writing business of ours. We didn’t slowly wean ourselves by building up a client list. We didn’t get our marketing done first and then test the waters. We plunged in, full force, no looking back. 

Make my daughter excited to wear it.  

This is Lorna’s job for sure. I get a little down on our company when I start to feel frustrated or irritated. The regrets start seeping in and I make back-up plans to being a freelance writer. Then Lorna steps in, getting me all excited again. She makes plans for our future, she sees opportunities everywhere, and she forces me to look really hard and appreciate how far we’ve come. 

Force her to sit on the little plastic potty every half hour. 

Sometimes, I’m really jazzed when I wake up in the morning, and the productivity practically sprouts out my ears. Other times, I have to force myself to step away from the television and type, even if it’s only in half hour increments. (Is anyone else a little bit grateful for the strike? Just think of all that extra time I’ll have without my shows to watch.) But regardless of whether I want to or not, I have to get on that seat and do my business. 

Praise anything that comes out of her dear little body (no matter where it lands).  

Some days, I’m at the top of my game with writing and editing. I can churn out several blog posts to use for a rainy day, I can get ahead of my schedule as far as clients go, and I can even do a little personal writing for myself. Other days, the stuff that comes out of my mind is crap (pun intended), and I can’t even get a good proposal or query in place. But even if I have to go back and revise the previous day’s work, or if I don’t like what I’ve done and just scrap the whole thing to start anew, it’s still pretty darn good that I wrote. Nobody is perfect on the first try (Supermom is, but that’s a whole bone of mine to pick), so nothing that I ever write is a waste of time. 

Hope for the best. 

Eventually, my daughter will be fully potty trained. Even if I suck at teaching her and she’s one of those four-year-olds getting precariously close to wearing adult diapers, she will someday figure it all out. Granted, I have high hopes of being footloose and diaper free by next month (just as I have high hopes of being incredibly successful and rich in that same time frame), but I’m confident that even if I don’t meet my immediate goals, we’ll get there in the end. It’s all a matter of perseverance and practice.  

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Just Because You Can Type, It Doesn’t Mean You’re a Writer


Writers are easy to find.  

In the world of work-at-home-dom, freelance writing seems to be one of the first things people turn to when faced with bringing a paycheck in through the computer screen. For instance, just imagine poor Jack, sitting at home after a stressful day at work. His back hurts from his cheap office chair and his head is pounding after the verbal beating his boss gave him. He really wishes he could work at home, comfortably seated in his ergonomic chair with a little Bach playing in the background. “I know,” he thinks to himself in what he considers a stroke of genius, “I used to write memos every week. I have experience. I could be a writer.” 

Good writers are hard to find. 

Perhaps Lorna and I are a little picky, but we HATE it when we read a piece of writing with errors in it. I’m not saying that Jack sucks as a human being. I’m not saying that we never make errors. I’m not even saying that there are rules decreed in stone when it comes to the written word. What I am saying is that when we come across an article that has consistent errors—a misuse of semicolons, crazy commas all over the page, or just plain bad grammar—it hurts us both mentally and physically.    

I know I’m going out on a limb here and opening myself up to all sorts of critiques from people who love to tear grammarphiles limb from limb. But someone’s got to say it. 

Being a professional writer is hard work.  

Writing is not about putting words on a page and hoping that someone will buy them. Education, experience, and consistency are all necessary to stay at the top of this game. This is not something Lorna and I take lightly. We feel that our commitment to these three qualities is what makes us actual writers instead of freelancers with delusions of grandeur.   


Do I think that having a degree in Creative Writing or English is necessary to become a writer? Absolutely not. Some of the best writers I know are as removed from an English degree as I am from brain surgery. Do I think that the fact that I have a degree in English helps me out as a writer? Absolutely.  

Four years of English-intensive college classes taught me a few things. Grammar, for one. Punctuation, for another. Not to mention creative license in writing incomplete sentences. It also taught me to love and revere the Chicago Manual of Style, the APA writing guide, the MLA writing guide, and all other publications dedicated to instructing me on the different ways of conveying my message.  


Experience in the writing capacity can mean a lot of things. It can mean being a well-read individual who knows the ins and outs of writing a good sentence. It can mean knowing absolutely everything there is to know about a particularly difficult topic and being able to break that topic down into words that others can understand. It can mean having spent years perfecting your craft so that your style and voice cannot be duplicated. 

Experience is the one thing everyone can access. Even Jack, my poor office-slave friend, might have enough experience in his field to make him a successful, if grammatically-challenged, writer. The one thing I ask is that if you are great at writing, if you have something important to say—but you cannot convey that something without making errors in subject-verb agreement or even correct punctuation—hire yourself an editor. You’d be amazed what an expert and a fresh pair of eyes can do. (This is something just about everyone can benefit from. I always run everything I write through Lorna first. That second person makes all the difference.) 


Here’s where I think Lorna and I have an edge. Not because we have outstanding education or experience, but because we are committed to the craft. Between the two of us, we occasionally have conflicting ideas of what “correct” means. Personally, I have a strong aversion to serial commas in the AP style (found in most newspapers, journals and magazines). I love my commas in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style (found in many academic documents, books, and all things written by me). Lorna agreed to make the switch so that our work is consistent.  On the other hand, she recently asked me to please, please stop ending sentences with prepositions. Before, it was something I never really concerned myself with. (Yes, I was just being clever there.)    

These are just a few of the many examples we have decided are important to us and to our world of grammar. As such, we have created The List. The List contains all of our style guidelines. When we outsource our work, or if we simply need to remember our own rules, we can consult The List. It keeps us consistent with each other and with ourselves so that everything our company produces meets the same (read: excellent) standards. The List is a living organism that changes and grows with the dynamics of the English language, with updates cheerfully provided by the Chicago Manual of Style every year, with our own whims, and with the nature of the document we are writing. Because I would never start a sentence with a conjunction in a formal business document. 

Write, and Write Well! 

I’m not perfect, and I’m not a perfect writer. Some of you may carefully search the blogs of my past, present, and future in hopes of being able to gleefully point out my errors. That’s fine. Point away. I’ve been known to get petty satisfaction from the same actions myself from time to time (okay, as recently as yesterday).  

All I ask is that you take writing seriously. It’s a gift, an art, and a science. If you don’t know the hard-and-fast rules of writing, study them. And if you don’t want to study them, hire someone else to do it for you.

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Promote Your Small Business


As some of you may know, I also maintain a blog called Something Good over at Livejournal.  It’s been running for a little over a year, and it sort of my pet project (in that I love it even if I don’t have enough time for it and the overall sense of satisfaction I get from it far outweighs the fact that it occasionally goes potty on the floor).  I already explained it pretty well when I set up the user info over there, so here’s a quick rundown on how the blog works:

 ”The purpose of this blog is very simple: To do Something Good every day. I’ll make suggestions of things we can all do to improve the world around us, feel better about ourselves, or just make our lives a little less stressful . . . Most of the suggestions will be quick and painless. They won’t cost any money and will leave you feeling like you’re a step ahead of the game. Others will take more time or energy. Some might even cost money, although we’ll try to keep that to a minimum as well. I just want us to be able to go to bed at night knowing that we did at least one good thing during the course of our crazy, hectic, brain-draining days.”

The Something Good blog is purely a labor of love.  I don’t make any money from it.  There are some ads there, but they were added by Livejournal because I use a free account, and they keep any revenue that might be generated. 

OK, now that the premise of the blog has been established . . .

With the Holiday Season upon us, I am putting together the Something Good Holiday Shopping Guide 2008, and I wanted to invite anyone here to make suggestions for businesses or organizations they’d like to see included. It’s basically a list of alternatives to shopping at the big box stores and will focus on individual artists, small businesses, and charitable organizations. By patronizing those folks during the holidays, our spending really has sort of a double impact.  With so many of our readers being work-from-home parents, I thought it would be great to open up an opportunity for a little exposure.

So, if you have a business, are an artist, or just know of a great organization that could use our support during the holidays, make me aware of it. (You are absolutely encouraged to nominate other small/home businesses, too.)  If it fits in with the overall idea, then I will happily include it on the Something Good Holiday Shopping Guide. It’s a great chance to maybe get just a little more advertising or one extra sale this year. I personally bought items from several of the folks featured on last year’s list.  Just keep in mind that your product or service should be something that folks would realistically give as a holiday gift.

You can get more information on the post Let’s Do Something Good for the Holidays, and you can send an email with your information to berrybreweradmin (at) gmail (dot) com. Please jump on board, as I’d like to post the list on Friday.

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We Made the Cut


Hey, all.  Remember how a couple of weeks ago we told you that Freelance Parent had been nominated for the “Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2007/2008″ contest at Writing White Papers?  Well, we discovered this morning that our little-ole weblog is one of the finalists.  How cool is that?  In addition, we’re listed alongside some really awesome blogs. 

 In the spirit of a) sharing the link love, and b) offering you all some great resources, here’s the list of finalists

  • Catalystblogger
  • Copyblogger
  • Copywriter Underground
  • Copywriting Maven
  • Freelance Parent
  • Freelance Writing Jobs
  • Get Paid to Write Online
  • Golden Pencil
  • Heather Strang, Writer
  • Ink in my Coffee
  • Renegade Writer Blog
  • The Urban Muse
  • Web Content Writer Tips
  • Web Writing Info
  • Write From Home
  • Writer Mama
  • Writer’s Resource Center
  • Writing for Writers
  • Writing the Cyber Highway
  • Why not visit them all?!

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    Sappy Gratitude Post with Bonus Video Montage!


    First of all, happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers . . . even those not in the U.S.  Tamara and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  While getting laid off from our previous job was not at all fun, we can trace it directly to the beginnings of our freelance adventure.  So, yes, we are thankful that things turned out as they did.

    We’d also like to extend our gratitude to Wendy and the other writers at eMoms at Home.  Being a part of eMoms has been a huge part of the last few months, and we are so blessed to have had this opportunity.  Of course, it wouldn’t have meant much without you folks.  Thank you so much for returning often to read our posts, for leaving your own thoughts and insights, and for encouraging us along the way.

    Starting a business is hard.  Starting a business with an audience is . . . well, it’s weird.  In some ways, it’s probably a little harder because we are farily open to criticism.  On the other hand, I think it’s probably the best possible thing that could have happened for the Berry-Brewer Freelance Agency. 

    Tamara and I are both the type of people who need to be held accountable, and this blog does just that.  We have daily deadlines.  We have to come up with topics.  We absolutely must write every day.  In addition, blogging about our business means we really have to examine it on a regular basis.  We’re constantly uncovering new thoughts and ideas just because we had to have something to write about that day.

    Of course, the most important aspect of the blog has been the sense of community that’s been created.  Two months ago, Tamara and I were a couple of gals with an exciting plan and very little idea on how to actually implement it.  Now, we’re becoming successful freelance writers.  We chalk a lot of that up to what has happened here.  You folks have really inspired and taught us.  We’ve made some great business connections through Freelance Parent, and we’re so excited to see where those go in 2008.

    Gee, my short Thanksgiving post got really long and sappy all of a sudden.  Here’s what I originally came here to say:

    In honor of the upcoming holiday, and the fact that I don’t feel like writing a big post today, I’m going to copy Beth at The Writing Road and share this fun montage with you all.  (Seriously, go visit her blog.  It’s the least I can do since I just stole her idea!)

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