Sharpen Your Focus: 5 Ways to Kickstart Your Freelance Life

Remember this post? It was all about ways to treat yourself for less than $10 on Valentine’s Day, with or without a valentine.

10 Ways to Treat Yourself (For Less Than $10)

It’s not Valentine’s Day today, but I’m always looking for small (read: free) ways to appreciate what I have, and improve my quality of life. Aren’t you?

Today is Friday, though, so I’m thinking it’s an extra-appropriate time to go into the weekend mindfully and kindly–considering how you can get the most from your your body, your home, and your freelance life.

(Spoiler: You can be kind to yourself every day. But somehow, kindness doesn’t seem as accessible on a Monday morning.)

Give these ideas a try this weekend, and let me know how it goes. And don’t forget that sometimes, taking five deep breaths is the best gift you can give yourself.

1. Lay out your clothes every night

Let me tell you how often I don’t do this. But when I do, my day starts much more quickly and smoothly.

Especially when you work from home, it can be easy to sit down in your pajamas with a cup of coffee (or wine, depending on the time of day/level of alcoholism to which you adhere). Before you know it, it’s 11AM, and you feel, well, kind of gross.

Beat that feeling to the punch, and stop stumbling around in the morning, trying to find clean pants through all that crusty eye makeup.

PRICE: Free.

2. Walk around the block every morning

This is the natural next step after getting dressed in your laid-out clothes every morning. I read somewhere that somebody famous did it. You want to be famous, don’t you?

PRICE: Free.

3. Drink a glass of water before you eat

Are you hungry? Are you sure? How bout you drink some water first?

God, I love food. I try to remember to hydrate before I dig in, though. It’s a great tool to keep from overeating.

PRICE: Free, unless you live in California or sub-Saharan Africa, in which case: Damn, sorry.

4. Change your pillowcases

Studies show you’ll sleep better when the fabric next to your head doesn’t smell like morning breath and face dirt.

Okay, no one’s done a study on that, but you’ll have fewer breakouts if you change your pillowcases at least once a week. Plus, it’s my personal opinion that the smell of laundry detergent helps you fall asleep.

PRICE: Depends on how often you do your laundry. Basically, free.

5. Write down what you’re grateful for

Do this either at night before you go to sleep, or take a few minutes before you start work every day. By noticing the little things, you’ll start to build a naturally grateful outlook–which benefits you, your work, and everyone you know.

PRICE: Priceless.


Anything to add? Leave it in the comments!

Dear Creative: Know How to Answer These 3 Questions

Sunken City

This post is shared from my friends at Sunken City. Share it yourself, and show them some love!

Today we got to pitch Sunken City to a small group headed by Robbie Vitrano and Tim Williamson, founders of Idea Village.  The event, BarPreneurs, gives a handful of entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their idea/company for one minute.  From this, three semi-finalists are selected for a question-and-answer period, and one finalist gets to stay and have lunch with the big wigs. Sunken didn’t make it past the first round, but on a whim, we stayed to see what we could learn from the Q&A.  There, we picked up three seemingly simple questions that, as artists, we don’t think about nearly enough:

1.) What is your business (in one sentence)? 

2.) How will this make money? 

3.) What do you need to make this happen?

Personally, we spend most of our time thinking about the vision of Sunken (“Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a TV comedy about NOLA made by artists who live here?”) and not enough time thinking about the business angle of what makes our show profitable and attractive to investors. Among artists, there is often a natural aversion to “money talk”; it feels nobler to imagine that we can continue making art simply in the name of love, truth, and expression.

However, the truth is that whatever you are making–a web series, a fashion line, a giant man of straw–you need money to make it. And someday, you will find yourself face-to-face with someone who possesses the very resources and connections you need. It may be in an elevator, a restroom, or crowded somewhat awkwardly around a bar in the French Quarter. Wherever it is, be prepared to describe why your idea is awesomehow it will make money, and what EXACTLY you need RIGHT NOW to level-up.

The best way to get there: practice. Pitch as often as you can. There are no shortage of pitch events and networking meet-ups in this city. Go make yourself uncomfortable. And when you aren’t selected to move on to the “next round” at one of these events, don’t leave.  Instead, nurse the one free cocktail you got, stick around as long as is socially acceptable, and see what you can learn from those who are selected.

Also: check out FitLot. We think they’re gonna be big.


Follow Sunken City on Twitter @oursunkencity to learn how you can support the show!

Take Back Your Weekend

How to Maximize Downtime Whenever You Get It

Dear copywriting,

You’re a slavedriver, and I love you. But wait–this isn’t that letter.

This letter is about you, my friend, and the last time you enjoyed a stress-free, work-free weekend. Raise your hand if you don’t remember when that was, and then put your hand down because everyone in the coffee shop is staring at you.

Freelancers know the myth of the “weekend” all too well. Clients want work delivered, and they want it now–whether it’s after 5 pm on a weekday or 10 am on a Sunday morning.

Even if you’re not a freelancer, chances are you’ve seen countless weekends disappear, spent in a haze of errand-running, chores, and catch-up work. You wake up Monday morning already depleted, because you never had a chance to relax.

Weekend Definition
Thanks, Google.

Weekends are supposed to be filled with picnics. Bed-lounging. Reading things printed on actual paper.

Mine usually look just like my weekdays–but I have no problem with this, because I’ve set up a three-pronged system for carefully managing my downtime.

…Want to read more? This whole post will be delivered to your inbox tomorrow. Just click here to sign up for the never-spammy, always-awesome English Maven newsletter!

(It also sometimes features cute pictures of my cat, because he’s more popular than I am.)

The Top 5 Quotes from TribeCon 2013

New Orleans’ tech-networking community held its annual TribeCon gathering at the City Park Peristyle yesterday.

Despite a glowering sky, insane wind, and the allure of Halloween pre-gaming, the Tribe managed to kill a giant pot of jambalaya, drain a keg of beer and share some interesting ideas on the intersection of technology and art.

city park peristyle
Algae party! JK, tech conference.

Here are the top five quotes from TribeCon 2013:

  1.  On the creative process and the necessity of creating bad work:

“When I see someone with an immaculate sketchbook, I don’t trust that person.”

Kody Chamberlain

2. On the idea of “digital homogenization”:

“The Internet is really good at telling you what everyone cares about, but it’s really bad at telling you what you care about.”

Ron Goldin

3. On asking for help:

“Everyone wants to be part of something great.”

CJ Hunt

4. On following your passion:

“The type of work you do is the type of work you get.”

Ron Domingue

5. On listening to the voice of your customer:

“It’s not about: ‘How can we get more likes?’ It’s about: ‘How can we get more people to like us?'”

Thomas Knoll

Other highlights: Time-killing jokes from highly bearded emcee Chris Trew, “Workaholics”-inspired bear coats made by Colin Grussing and an introduction to Quintron’s Drum Buddy.

What was your favorite part of TribeCon? Share it in the comments.

The Single Most Important Conversion Tool (That Most Websites Lack)

Brace yourself, because I’m about to throw some hard truths at you. But hey, at least they’re not bricks.

Read on to find out whether your website is missing the number-one tool to convert prospects to buyers. (And it doesn’t matter whether you run a business or not — this applies to personal websites and LinkedIn profiles, too.)

The Missing Piece

You shelled out for a beautiful new website design. Your e-commerce store is stocked and ready to ship. Your SEO is ranking well. But you still don’t have any conversions or paying customers. Why?

You forgot to hire a copywriter.

A gorgeous website without equally dazzling content is like a Michael Bay movie: loud, flashy, empty and frankly disappointing. Design and content go hand-in-hand. You won’t see results if one or the other is missing.

Michael Bay explosion
Also, Michael Bay movies suck.

Get Your Words’ Worth

Visitors to your site are looking for reasons to buy what you’re selling, whether that’s gourmet dog treats, dynamite copywriting services, or you and your resume.

They’re not looking for generic hard sells  (“The Best Dog Treats Available!”) or bland clichés (“You Won’t Believe Your Eyes…”). These trite turns of phrase turn customers off.

A good copywriter takes what’s special about your product and presents that information to the person most likely to buy. Good copy answers the following questions:

  • What makes the product unique?
  • What need will it fill? What problem will it solve?
  • Where can customers buy it?

Content should never be an afterthought. It should be the first thing you think of as you design your website, flyer, brochure — any piece of marketing collateral.

Consider Your Audience

A good copywriter gets to know your product AND your target audience. Claude C. Hopkins, the original gangster of copywriting, said: “We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn to win one.”

Your target audience is not “everyone,” so your copy shouldn’t target everyone.

Test Your Copy Right Now

There are two easy ways to test your written copy for effectiveness.

  1. Pretend you’re Morgan Freeman. Read your copy out loud in your best Morgan Freeman voice. If it does not sound at least as epic as “March of the Penguins,” hire a copywriter.
  2. Ask the questions listed above and see if your site copy answers all of them.
Morgan Freeman as God

 How does your copy measure up? If you’re not sure, send me your copy at for a free evaluation. If you are sure (that you’re unhappy with your copy), I’d love to help. Request a project quote here.