Getting Motivated on a Soggy Monday

cloudsToday I am blah-gging. Not blogging. Blah-gging. I, along with many it seems, have the Monday blahs. It’s been chilly and rainy all day, after a weekend that saw 60 mph wind gusts, thunderstorms, even snow in some places. Opening Day at Yankee Stadium? Ain’t happening today. Happy Spring…

Okay. Enough venting. So what to do when you’re a professional writer and you’re just not feeling it? Here are my top tips for staying motivated and lifting the clouds:

1. Martini in the Morning – No, I don’t mean drink a martini before Noon. I’m referring to the Internet radio station that cranks out lively tunes from classic crooners like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Listening to these playlists is sure to put some pep in your pen and brighten up your day. http://martiniinthemorning.com/

2.  #Connect – Before getting lost in Microsoft Word, try traveling the Twitterverse for awhile. Not only will you catch up on the latest news, chuckles and trending topics, it’ll give you a chance to shout-out your tweeps and see what they’ve been up to. And who knows? You may even find your next topic to write about.

3. Fuel your Productivity – If you’re aiming to complete your next great story, get into the groove with outside projects that will help build momentum and boost your productivity. Blogging is quite useful (hey, that’s what I’m doing right now!), since it organizes your thoughts and gets your creative juices flowing. Catching up on emails is another favorite of mine. Whether you’re reaching out to story contacts or cleaning out your inbox, the sense of accomplishment you feel can help trigger more motivation, inspiring you to gets those magical words out to make your story shine.

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Long live the business card

Remember when business professionals always carried a card on them? “Here’s my card,” was an undeniable part of business speak, especially when wheeling and dealing.

Now, you don’t see that as much anymore. You’re referred to people’s LinkedIn profiles or Facebook pages or Twitter handles. One quick search on all these sites and you’re able to connect with a person in minutes.

While a lack of paper business cards might be good news for tree-lovers, I think it’s getting in the way of our identities. A business card is an extension of our brand; it’s a way to present your contact information in a compact, portable channel – something that people can keep handy when they want to give you a ring or drop you an email. If people want to find you on social media, your handle names are right there on the card – all in one place.bizcard

Sure, not having business cards means less to carry and yes, it is a cost-saver if you don’t create them, but if you want to build a business rapport with someone, you must carry some with you. It’s simply more personal. And most importantly, they make you stand out. They have your unique design on them. You’re not just another LinkedIn profile blended together with all the other Richard Joneses or Jennifer Smiths.

Heck, even in the social scene, people don’t write down their phone numbers any more. If I meet a guy at a party, he’ll tell me to find him on Facebook. Um, bad idea. Do I really need to see photos of his ex? Nope. A simple pen and paper to write down a phone number is fine; but nobody carries around writing instruments any more (except us writers).

Socially, people also type their numbers into people’s phones. “Put in your number and I’ll text you so you have mine.” What if I don’t want your number in my phone? What if we go out once and the date is horrible? Yes, you can delete the number easily, but there’s something about physically holding a piece of paper (or a business card) that’s more relaxed. I feel comfortable knowing that the number or email address is there should I decide to reach out. Once a number is programmed into a person’s phone, it immediately leads to a deluge of texts. It’s added traffic I don’t necessarily want. You don’t make the address book cut unless I know there’s going to be a repeat connection.

On a sentimental note, I’ve cherished cocktail napkins or post-its containing names and numbers of guys I’ve liked. They become warm and fuzzy mementos of the time we met. You can’t say that about an electronic contact; they’re just digits in a phone sandwiched between your accountant’s and your hairdresser’s.

Vary your channels for optimal communication in the workplace

An email. A phone call. A meeting. If you’re communicating to employees, all of the above work well but you have to know when to use them. employeescommunicating

I like email for prodding. If you’re inquiring about the status of a project or to set up a meeting, email is ideal. No need to bother someone with a phone call; they might be busy. Instead, a quick one or two lines is the way to go. Make sure the phrasing is polite and that the person knows you’re grateful for their time. Heck, add a smiley face if you have to, depending on the level of the person you’re emailing (e.g. if it’s an executive, avoid the smiley faces!).

With phone calls, let’s state the obvious: if you need a rush response to something, you must pick up the phone. Phoning someone is also a nice way to follow up from an email, or vice versa.

Sometimes, a project may be too intricate to discuss over email; too much back and forth in email chains can be confusing to follow. Picking up the phone for a proper discussion will work best. Always opt for the office phone before trying someone’s mobile. Save the cell phone calls for urgent matters.

Face-to-face interaction, of course, is the most personal way to communicate to someone – whether you’re in the workplace or catching up with an old friend. To my fellow freelancers, I highly recommend face-to-face communication whenever possible. If you need to touch base with a co-worker, take a stroll to his/her cubicle. You’ll find many people will welcome a five-minute break to chat or look away from the computer screen.

If the person is busy or on the phone however, just wave and come back later. Try to stay visible  as much as possible to keep your face out there and build rapport with colleagues and clients.  

Making the good sell

This week, I finished writing the copy for my soon-to-be-launched website.

As I composed the text, I couldn’t help but notice how challenging it is to write about yourself. When I’m writing about clients (e.g. creating their online bios), it’s much easier for some reason. I guess it’s because I’m being paid to make them sound as accomplished as possible – embellishing and “bragging” is highly permitted! When I’m writing about myself, I’m conscious about not sounding too full of myself. Sure, you want to sound competent and qualified but it’s important not to overdo it so you don’t sound arrogant or egotistical.

Sometimes it’s better to let other people do the boasting which is why I’ve included testimonials from clients and former colleagues who know me best. It’s lovely seeing so many compliments in writing but editing the text? That’s quite a task also. How can you possibly amend copy that is singing your praises? FYI – I wound up using the most relevant information and dividing other comments into snippets to place throughout the site.

When it comes to writing about yourself, always have your resume handy (or your LinkedIn profile). Both help to refresh your memory about past work experience and accomplishments.

Another aspect of writing about yourself is that in the end, you feel pretty darn good reviewing everything you’ve accomplished in your still-growing career. When you’re living it, you don’t always have time to observe all that you’re doing for your clients or to let their happy reactions sink in. It’s always on to a new project.

So, freelancers, be sure to take time to appreciate your successful projects and don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.