Something starts with nothing

Something starts with nothing…

I was bored this morning. All tableted out and didn’t feel like turning on my computer. So I turned on the TV. A woman was being interviewed about the positive side of boredom. Said it could be the beginning of creativity, but most people were too scared to be bored and thought of boredom in negative terms.

But she said there were positive sides to boredom. For instance, it begets meditation and opens doors to creativity.

When the interview was done, I turned off the TV and kept the tablet off. I just sat there on the couch, with eyes closed. It was not meditation. Was kind of a silent, empty contemplation… Perhaps not even that.

Within a short while a search term for my headaches (I have 24/7 headaches; they are not migraines; I have had a constant headache for four years now) entered my head. And ideas for a novel I am trying to convince an author to write came to me…

When I got up I entered the new headache search term into Google and discovered online for the first time other people with my exact same headache. Turns out it’s called New Daily Persistent Headache. Google it! Four years I’ve had this sucker. My neurologist has never named it. She has not prescribed a medication that works to alleviate it. I have certainly not found a cure for it.

But I have now found a community — people who have what I have.

You might ask, “What is so important about that?”

I confess, I was beginning to think that maybe I was psychosomatic. You know, don’t have a headache but have just kind of gone crazy, and my insanity it manifesting itself with a so-called headache.

Well, either there are a lot of crazy people who think they have 24/7 headaches out there or this sucker is real…

Oh, and I have a 10-point novel outline to give to the author…

As the person who was interviewed said, something often begins with nothing. It’s just that we don’t give ourselves nothing time. This is something that I am going to have to try to give myself more often.

So you will have to excuse me, but I am going to go do nothing again for a while. And let me tell you, doing nothing is something that is difficult for me to do. So for the next while, no tablet, no e-reader, no radio, no TV. Just nothing. And if it takes me nowhere, no big deal. It’s just something, nothing is, that I am going to try to give myself each day.

Boredom. I am going to embrace it. And see where, if anywhere, it takes me.


How to set corporate writing rates

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines and from Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments.

You are working non-billable hours if you are in marketing mode, or when you are filing, cleaning your office, doing your books, and so on. A billable hour, on the other hand, is any hour (or part thereof) that you are paid to work. You may be writing, conducting research or interviews, revising work, or attending meetings. As long as you are being paid, it is a billable hour.

Which came first?

Question: How many billable hours do you need to work per week to become a six-figure freelancer?

Answer: It depends on how much you charge per hour.

Question: How much should you charge per hour?

Answer: It depends on how many billable hours you can work per week.

It’s a bit like the chicken or the egg question, no? One cannot exist without the other, but which comes first? To answer the question, I like to start with my annual revenue target, which starts with six figures—the Holy Grail of freelancers. Unlike the Holy Grail, earning six figures as a freelancer is not a myth. Writers who earn six-figure incomes are all dedicated and disciplined writers. (But they still manage to take some time off to goof around.)

Six figures may be your revenue target, but don’t sweat it if it feels like an unreachable dream right now. To set your annual revenue target, start with your revenue history. How much did you earn last year as a freelancer? It can be difficult to go from a $20,000 or $50,000 income to a six-figure income in a year, so set a realistic target for this year, perhaps a 15 percent increase. If you exceed it, cool! That will help you set a more realistic target for the following year.

Do the math

Annual revenue goal: $ ___________ per year.

Now calculate how much you have to earn per week to hit the target. I am going to give you two weeks off for good behaviour (or vacation).

Weekly revenue goal: $ __________ per year / 50 weeks = $ ______ per week

Now that you know how much you need to earn per week to hit your target, how much do you need to charge per hour? Most writers will tell you they work, or aim to work, 15 to 25 billable hours per week. Based on that, let’s calculate what you have to charge per billable hour. Let’s use a six-figure target and an achievable 20 billable hours per week, and continue to do the math:

$100,000 per year / 50 weeks = $2,000 per week

$2,000 per week / 20 billable hours per week = $100 per hour

So, there is your answer. Or is it? Will you be able to work four billable hours per day, five days per week, 50 weeks per year at $100 per hour? If you are just getting started, probably not. If you have never charged more than $35 or $50 per hour in your life, the thought of charging $100 per hour might give you pause. At the same time, if you are writing annual-report copy for major corporations, or if you are writing speeches for senior executives, you might be laughing at the thought of charging so little.

So, here is what you do if you want to be a professional freelancer:

  • Figure out what you want to make per year.
  • Determine the number of hours (billable) you are willing to work per week.
  • Calculate the amount you need to charge per hour.
  • Find clients who are willing to pay your rate, and find enough of them so you can work the number of billable hours you want to work.

It’s that simple. But it takes a lot of work to get there. Again, at this point, if you still aren’t sure what to charge, don’t worry. You’ll read much more on rates and how to calculate quotes before we get to the end of the book. For now, though, do you see why developing a revenue target is so important? If you don’t know how much you want to earn, how can you plan to earn it? How do you know how much you need to earn per week or per hour to meet your annual revenue goal? Setting that annual revenue goal is an important part of establishing your rate and creating your business and marketing plans.

If you want to earn more than six figures, you have to work more hours or charge more per hour. If you want to work less than 20 billable hours per week, and still earn six figures, you need to find clients willing to pay more per hour. Or you have to make money in your sleep. (I might have been asleep when you purchased this book. It took a lot of work to write and market it, but now it earns money while I sleep, am on vacation, or do other billable work.)

You may want a better sense of what the corporate market expects to pay for work but all I can do is repeat: there is no set rate. Sometimes, even different departments of the same company have different rate expectations! We will, however, talk a lot more about money and about issuing quotes….

Get your free writing book PDF

I am giving away free PDFs of my books on writing–business writing, promotional writing, writing articles, writing for the web, business of freelance writing.

All I am asking in return is that you post a mini review or overview of the book(s) you chose on several social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and so on) and include a link to my book promo page: (That is where you go to pick out the book(s) you want.)

I am NOT asking that you post a positive review! If the book doesn’t work for you, you are free to say so. But I hope you find the book(s) informative and well written, and that you make positive comments.

So how do you get your book?

Visit and select the book(s) you want. Then all you have to do is email and request your book(s).

I will email you the free PDF and you go from there.

If you have any questions, email and let me know. And happy reading about writing.

What do ‘ill’ freelancers do?

As many followers of this blog know, I have been a freelance writer and writing teacher/trainer for 25+ years. Some of you may know that I also have MS (Multiple Sclerosis). I was able to work while dealing it for over a decade, but for the last four years it has slowed me down considerably. Can’t go out to teach or train (although I conduct some webinars and teach some online courses) and I can’t attend client meetings. And even when I land some small writing jobs, it can be difficult to focus on the work.

So the question is, what does a freelancer with MS, or any illness, do?

In my humble opinion, it is your job to stay as active and engaged as your mind and your body will allow. I mean what is the alternative? Toss in the towel, roll up on the couch and bury your head in the sand — if I am allowed to mix my metaphors.

That is why I am posting a link to my song, my very first song, American Donald. I am not posting it to make a political statement, although the song is political satire. I am posting it to make a statement about doing what you can do even though you have MS. I am not a song writer, but I wrote the lyrics to this song parody (a little ditty based on American Woman by The Guess Who), found someone to sing it (I’m not a singer), and learned how to create the slide show video  you see here —

I am not asking you to agree with the politics of the song, or to even like it (although I think the singer really rocks it!). I am asking anyone who is dealing with an illness, disease or disability to find their interests and passion and to become as engaged and active (as alive!) as they can be as they battle whatever it is they have to battle..

Allow me to elaborate.

I can no longer stand in a room and train people — teach classes or conduct writing workshops. That is why I now teach online business-writing and copywriting courses and conduct writing training webinars. All I have to do is sit in front of my computer, as I am doing now, and type replies to my online students or talk to webinar participants. That I can still do.

I am also a writer, but I find it difficult to write for clients these days. First off, I can’t attend meetings. Secondly, my concentration isn’t what it used to be. So I find it difficult to focus on the writing job. But I seem to be able to focus on my own projects. That is why I wrote my parody song. In addition, I have recently written a book, Everything You Want to Know About MS.

While print, epub and Kindle copies of the book are on sale at various online stores, I am giving away free copies of the PDF to MS Warriors (and their care givers, family members and friends). If you want a free PDF copy of the book, email with the subject line “Free MS PDF” and I will email you a PDF. In short, it’s not really a money-making project; it is a way to give back to my community.

So, with all that in mind, if you are battling limitations, do what you can do to stay as engaged as you can. That’s all I am saying.

What’s the alternative? I’m not saying like or enjoy your MS or whatever you are dealing with. I am saying embrace it, work through it, fight through it — through its limitations and symptoms — as best you can. If someone has an alternative idea, one that works, in mind, feel free to enlighten me! Leave a message here. Otherwise, I will simply continue to do what I am doing — the best I can do to stay active and engaged under the circumstances.

And email me if you want a free PDF copy of the book!

American Donald video; ‘guess who’ is singing!

I’ve tried, for me, a different kind of writing: a satiric song: American Donald. You can hear the song, view the video and read the lyrics here:

If you like American Woman, and if Trump is not your cuppa, and if you enjoy a rockin’ female singer, you will enjoy the video!

I can’t say who the singer is; she was happy to sing the song, and she really rocks it, but she doesn’t want her name on the video, in case she needs to go to the US one day… About the singer I can only say “Guess Who”!)…

Note: I confess I asked Randy Bachman first if he wanted to sing it. He said that he doesn’t do political songs… Um, what was American Woman if not a song that made a political statement and took a political stance??? Okay, it was not as politically overt as American Donald, still…

But not a problem; I like this version. And actually think it’s much more appropriate that a woman sings (rocks!) the song.

Again, you can see the video here:

My freelance writing resolutions for 2019

I’ve been a freelance writer and writing trainer most of my life. I’ve loved the work that I’ve done, and managed to make a fairly decent living doing it…..

I’m 64 now, and have MS–a chronic and, for me, somewhat debilitating disease (the degree to which it is debilitating is different for everybody who has it). So age and illness, mostly illness, have kind of crimped my style over the last few years.

I’m still working, but not like I used to. Other than blogging and writing the occasional book about MS and business and promotional writing, I do very little writing and editing for clients. Sadly, I can no longer train in person, although I teach several online writing courses for the UofT and conduct the occasional writing webinar. And I’ll be teaching a series of online writing courses come the new year.

But it’s not like it used to be… I guess I’m semi-retired now. Only, due to the illness, I’m not golfing (okay, even without the illness I wouldn’t be golfing!) or travelling the world. I read good books, watch good TV shows (mostly British) and watch engaging movies. I also walk our dog once and often twice a day and play too much Words with Friends (hey, if you play it, challenge me–although I’m not that good).

So I confess I don’t really make many resolutions come the New Year. It’s like I have nothing to resolve. But if you are just stating your freelance journey, or if you’ve been at it for a while and want to do more, there are resolutions you should make, and stick to.

Resolution #1: create a business vision for yourself.

Resolution #2: market your writing services (or any other services you offer) on a regular (daily) basis, based on your business vision, at least until you are too busy making money to spend time marketing.

Resolution #3: determine how to accurately price your writing services.

If you make and stick to those resolutions, and if you deliver the services you offer effectively and efficiently, and invoice for your services so that you get paid, you should see your business grow over time. I know mine did.

My business grew because I worked at making it grow. Call me naive, but I believe if you do what you want to get paid to do, there is no reason why your business should not grow too.

Hope you had a good 2018 and that you have a happy, healthy and profitable 2019!


Two important components of writing explained

This blog post is about something that many writers realize consciously and some realize subconsciously. It is something that all writers should realize consciously so that is at the forefront of their minds as they write.

Here it is: there are two components to writing. There is the technical component and there is the content component.

The technical component includes spelling and grammar. But it is more than that. It is clear, concise, easily understood writing used in properly structured sentences, paragraphs and documents.

The content component includes writing that speaks to your target audience. Writing that conveys your purpose or reason for writing. Writing that captures attention so your reader will start reading. Writing that holds interest so that your reader will continue to read. Writing that influences attitude so your reader will think about acting. Writing that includes a clear call to action so that your reader will know how to, and when to, act.

I teach several writing course for the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. When I mark assignments I correct, when required, the technical aspects of writing. But, as important as strong technical writing is, I do not teach technical writing. I teach content courses (Business Writing, Copy Writing, Journalism Essentials), and when you write you need to keep clear and separate the technical and content components of writing. In fact, I strongly suggest that you put content first.

Why spend time upfront fixing technical errors when your content needs strengthening? You can edit you document to make it technically sound once you have written a solid draft of your document.

When I mark assignments, I place my emphasis on content. Does your content do all that I have outlined above? In short, strong technical writing with weak content is ineffective writing. (Similarly, strong content that is lost in a multitude of technical errors is also ineffective writing.)

Some strong technical writers produce weak content. I have written several books on writing, and teach private online courses, that can help writers produce strong, effective content. Some strong content writers are weak technical writers. They may need a good grammar book or need to take a self-editing course that focuses on the technical aspects of writing.

So now the two components of writing are clearly defined and you are conscious of the need to include both components in your writing. With that in mind, go forth and combine the two components and produce strong writing that helps you achieve your purpose or reason for writing.

Shoot the five arrows in your business marketing quiver

No matter the size of your business, you have five arrows in your marketing quiver. And if you don’t use all of them, it will be difficult for people to hear about your business.

This free 25-minute webinar describes what the five arrows are and it shows you how to shoot them so that you can effectively market and promote your business.

Watch the free video today on YouTube.

Free Business Vision Webinar on YouTube

If you are a freelancer (writer or editor) or an independent practitioner, or if you are the owner of any type of small business, you should create a W5–who, what, where, when, whybusiness vision before you start to market your business.

This free 20-minute business vision webinar will show you how to create your Business Vision so you can start to market your business in a focused and effective manner.

View the webinar today on YouTube:

Drug Dealers Killing Repeat Business

Drug dealers, what are you doing? Selling your customers such bad shit that it’s killing them? Don’t you know, dead customers can’t buy more drugs from you! And that kills your repeat business.

I used to work in advertising for Radio Shack (now The Source). If you ever shopped at Radio Shack, you might remember being asked for your name and address. And then a month later you received an adverting flyer in the mail trying to entice you back into the store to buy something else. In other words, repeat business.

Imagine if you got your stereo system home, plugged it in, and it blew up and killed you… Bye-bye repeat customer because a dead customer is an ex-customer, not a repeat customer.

I mean, what if people died almost every time they ate a Big Mac? McDonald’s would be selling far fewer burgers. Instead of “billions and billions sold” the signs on their restaurants would be “well, we’ve sold a couple dozen.”

Okay, so if you eat too many Big Macs your heart will eventually explode and you will die, but not right away. In other words, McDonald’s has you as a customer for a couple of decades, before their burgers kill you. That’s how drug dealers should be thinking — killing them slowly. Like why should you care if you eventually kill them, as long as you first sell them drugs repeatedly for a couple of decades.

What you should be doing is this: Think about your business in the long term. Get rid of the killing ingredients in your drugs and keep your customers alive so they can return to you repeatedly to by more drugs. That only makes fair and proper business sense.

And hey, if you are not sure if your shit contains killing ingredients, then I have a modest proposal for you: Try the drugs first yourself. And if you are still alive after ingesting them, then you are good to go! And if you are not alive well, aren’t you glad you didn’t sell it to a client and ruin your repeat relationship?