Making The Decision to Quit

Panda will be 5 months next week and I have almost accomplished my goal of finding part time employment that can be performed at home.

Finding real remote work, part time or full, is extremely difficult. First you have to sift through scams, and then when you find something legitimate you have to compete with every job applicant in the world.

Really.

Because remote work can be done from anywhere. So that means everyone on our planet is applying to that job.

But through a little networking and a stroke of good luck, I have secured two part time gigs that will cover half the salary I need to cover my part of our household expenses.

Now the tricky part – quitting my day job.

But the really tricky part is not quitting, but convincing my boss to let me reduce my hours to contract hours AND work from home – which no one has ever done.

I have threatened my husband multiple times about doing this. It’s my way of working up the courage to walk into my boss’s office and ask for what I want.

See, I wasn’t really raised to ask for what you want. That’s not what Southern Girls do.

We simper and smile and occasionally ‘suggest’.

Then a big strong man with a gun and lots of money comes along to save the day. Easy as apple pie.

But that’s not really my thing, the simpering and passive aggressive behavior, so I have to slap some water on my face and get in there.

But it’s scary, and I don’t want to.

Because it’s not just about personal rejection. It’s about not being able to accept it.

Oh, I’ve learned to deal with rejection and I can take constructive criticism like a champ, but this whole thing isn’t about me; it’s about Squishy Bug and Panda. So my boss has to say yes.

I don’t really know how it’s going to go, but I am going to have to make a move very soon, because my other small jobs are going to require more of me. I’m sort of doing it all right now, but that won’t be sustainable for very long.

I guess I am going to have to march in there with my chin up and a smile on my face and just be honest.

And tactical.

Because whether I like it or not, the world only sees value in you for what you can produce.

So I am going to have to prove my worth and offer added value to the proposition of working contract instead of salary.

We will see how it goes.

 

Working Mom Dilemmas

So I’ve been taking my postpartum work situation day by day, but it is finally starting to come to an apex of sorts. I am going to have to take action very soon.

The main issue is child care.

The daycare our children attend is mostly wonderful, but because it is affiliated with the School District, most of the children are home with their teacher parents during the summer.

What does that mean for my kiddos? It means they get shuffled around to centers they have never been before, with care givers they don’t know, and children they have never played with.

Now Squishy Bug is very social and has already embraced making new friends. But he has his limits, and I don’t want to push them. It’s just not fair.

Panda’s situation is even more dire because she is so very tiny still. Her schedule is already off and I am getting up with her two and three times a night.

So all of that is making me very depressed.

And very very tired.

Because I still have to drag my butt to work each morning.

At work, I am still feeling some prickliness from coworkers, who to be fair, probably see that I am trying to change jobs. Are they justified in being mean? No, and I would never do that to one of them. But I understand wanting to move on with someone else eager to fill the position.

I am also having a hard time pumping at work, even though I did finally get my own office (Hooray!). I have to work in the field some and there is always a meeting to attend, so sometimes I am not getting to pump three times a day.

And lastly, there is the sadness.

I am sitting here at a desk while my sweet babies grow up with strangers. I can barely talk about it these days without crying.

So I am going to take some drastic measures soon. Exactly what, I am not sure, but something has to be done or I am going to have some major regret on my hands.

Monday Morning Job Search

Well, it is Monday Morning and I have shipped everyone off to their designated places and I am back at my desk. Mondays are always the day that I reassess my priorities, where I am at, and what my daily and weekly tasks will be to carry out my goals. I make sure our finances are in order, my workflow is being maintained, and I have a plan to chisel away at my goals each day. One of those plans is my job search. Again, probably best not to try this at work. But it can be tackled at home in the space of a few hours each night. This is what my plan is for today:

1. Apply to 3-5 jobs – This doesn’t like many, but I have been looking for work for a few months now so quality is more important than quantity. I take the time to do thorough searches of job descriptions and the companies they are for. Then I update my résumé and cover letter so that they directly address the hiring manager, company and position being applied to. This is pretty time-consuming, but this is your first impression with a potential employer, so it needs to be good.

2. Job Follow-up – In today’s world, you don’t just have one interview and then BOOM your hired. There are usually several assessments, tests, and then a series of interviews. I have had a few bites here and there and I am going through various stages of the interview processes. So today I need to assess what needs to be completed and respond ASAP. Also, follow-up with some of the companies I have not yet heard back from. This shows your interest in the position is legitimate.

3. write one writing sample – I have yet to hammer out the specifics of this one, but I need to write one clean sample of writing that I can post to my website. Real samples are always better, of course, especially if a potential employer can find them online. But sometimes those are hard to come by, especially if are new to freelance writing, or you have done a lot of ghost writing, which is the dilemma I am having. So I am going to find some writing that I really want to do, and create samples of that work to present to potential clients. This will happen today if time allows.

So I need to do all that and get my regular work done. No small task, but each day will take me closer to my goals! Happy Monday Everybody!

Marketing Your Brand

I once overheard a woman talking with an acquaintance about how she was careful about what she posted to Facebook because she wanted to protect her ‘brand’. At the time, I only used Facebook for social purposes and considered the comment to be sort of snotty. I mean, who did she think she was, Kelloggs? Certainly she wasn’t talking about herself personally, because 1985 called and they want that hairstyle back.

But after one small business venture and a foray into becoming an independent contractor, I know see the value of ‘protecting your brand’.

What usually comes to mind is taking down all your Instagrams of you and your girls in Mexico with those guys and too many margaritas. Or the Facebook rant about abortion. Those are important to police if you want to support a professional persona online, yes, but protecting and maintaining your personal brand is much more than tidying up a few pictures and posts.

Your brand encompasses all your online influences. That includes your social networks to public documents like journals you have written for or projects you have worked on. Some of this information cannot be controlled and remains public domain. That is why it is important to know what kind of impact you are making and how it translates to your online persona.

One good way to get a picture of who you are online is to Google yourself. We all know that Google drives SEO, so the first page you find about yourself is likely the oldest and most content heavy influence of yours.

Mine was LinkedIn. Slate posted an article recently about the validity of LinkedIn as a recruiting tool, and while I reserve judgement in that regard, it is undeniable that it is a thriving social networking and recruiting site.

If you are reading this, you likely have a LinkedIn profile, or you are in a job that predates the site and have no need for it in your current position. So the information there matters, whether you like it or not.

Twitter and Facebook matter, too, but not how you think. Because of the format that Twitter has, it can be used as a free marketing tool. This is excellent for the small business owner, if used correctly. Facebook has its place as well. Facebook has really upped the ante with their advertisement formatting and business pages.

So those heavy hitters directly affect your brand. Whatever you have circulating among them, that is what the internet thinks you are selling.

Then we have Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ that can all add to your online presence and promote your brand. Of course, writing your own blog and/or starting your own website is crucial to defining your brand because it can serve as a landing page for all your internet links. You can also define your brand without constraints. If you are a photographer, you can showcase your work, provide rates, links to work, business contact information, etc. Your blog or website should become the hub of your internet persona. It’s a great way to collect all of that data out there and make it available in one place.

It is also important to remember, though, that the only thing worse than having bad information representing your brand is having no information. So after you have cleaned up all of your social networking sites make sure you do have enough information to make you searchable. Again a blog is great for this. But make sure you are commenting on forums and websites that are in your industry. Write articles and post to ezines. Actively engage people and businesses on Twitter to leverage your business and brand and expand your network.

Whatever you chose to do, make sure you are present on the web somewhere and keep up to date information out there. This kind of brand building is not only helpful, but almost essential to the modern business model.

How to Look for a Job at your Job

As I am writing this, I am sure my boss has found my blog and is making grand plans of how to fire me. So just if he is reading this, I am NOT looking for work at work. That would be unethical. And dishonest. For the rest of you, I thought I would share what I have learned about looking for work while still employed.

1. Don’t look for work while you are working…….until your lunch break. That’s your time. But I can’t guarantee that if your boss catches you that he won’t still fire you. Try to keep it on the DL.

2. When you go home, get all your stuff done for the evening 2 hours before you know you will pass out. For me that is 8pm. It’s the magic hour in our house when both babies are usually asleep. I know, sometimes this is impossible, but it is a good goal. Especially if you think your boss has read your blog about looking for a new job.

3. TURN OFF THE TV……..PUT DOWN YOUR IPHONE. You can easily record Game of Thrones and Facebook will still have pictures of babies and Buzzfeed quizzes tomorrow.

4. Go to your home office, take your laptop to a desk, or set up a cardboard box and put your Speak & Spell on it, whatever you have to do to simulate an actual office. This will keep you focused.

5. Use your time wisely. Two hours is not a lot of time, so divide it into sections so that you can be productive each night. Example: 45 minutes searching job listings, 45 minutes writing/re-writing resumes and cover letters, 45 minutes applying to jobs.

6. When you are done, save all your work in folders on your computer, along with an excel spreadsheet with the date, position applied to, company, email address, and any other pertinent info you might need if they call you for an interview. I have kicked myself many times for not writing down some key information about a position I applied for and sounded like a dumb ass on the phone. Never again!

7. Go to bed. Applying to jobs when you are drowsy is as bad as drunk dialing. You will regret it later.

8. The next day take 5 minutes before work to check your email for any correspondence.

9. Go to work, work hard, be a team player, and continue to produce good work for your résumé and make lasting contacts in your industry. Your ship will come in soon and you will be glad that you were professional about your job search.

……..but if it’s like real REAL bad, and you need to get the heck out of dodge, like, yesterday, then you need to get on the phone with your friends and everyone you know that has a job. Be real. The people who answered the phone like you for some reason, so be that person that they like, not the desperate job-hungry one you are now. Ask them how they are doing, how their kids/dog/plants are, if they saw the new Godzilla movie, etc. And here’s the kicker: MEAN IT. These people are in your network, which means they are friends, not headhunters. So be a good friend. When they ask how you are doing, tell them how you are doing, be honest. More than likely they will offer to look out for any openings they hear about. This will vastly improve your chances of finding a new job sooner.

Writing Ebooks – Part 2

Yesterday’s blog was about defining the purpose, type, and length of your ebook. Today I want to dive in and discuss the mechanics of writing an ebook. But first, let’s get motivated to write.

Now I am of the opinion that anyone can be a writer. You may not write the most compelling or informative material coming out of the gate, but that doesn’t mean you never will. Regardless of what writing snobs tell you, anyone can become a writer. In fact, I think most people MUST be writers in some aspect of their careers, if not the entirety.

Take me, for example. I work for an MEP engineering firm. We provide commissioning services and consulting as well as design of MEP systems. It sounds like we sit in a hole and punch away at our calculators, doesn’t it? That happens a lot less than you would think. Design engineers may spend hours performing calculations and laying out plans, but the only way they can express their calculations and designs is by writing. All plans have very specific notes that are imperative to proper design, and sometimes, will save your behind if something goes wrong. We also must write extensive specifications for projects. After all that, we still have to communicate to our clients and other team members in emails, reports, and presentations.

Writing is extremely important in this industry. It is even more imperative in other industries. So chances are, you are already writing on a consistent basis. So think of writing your own ebook as an extension of that work, not starting over from scratch. Even if you are writing about something new, you will learn about it in the process. That is the beauty of writing. You learn while you create. Don’t let anyone tell you that you already need to be an expert to write about something. No one is born an expert, everyone started somewhere, and they probably started by reading and writing about it.

Ok, are you excited about writing your FREE ebook now? Good. Now let’s talk about how to start. Your first step is going to be writing an outline. I abhor this process. But it is the single most important part of writing. Think of it like baking a cake. You first need to find all your ingredients and utensils. Start with your main ingredient, the main idea of your ebook and write it down. Put a number 1 by it. Now write 3 subcategories underneath it that you plan to discuss and categorized them as A, B, and C. Now think a little more about subcategory A and break it into three more subcategories and number them i, ii, and iii. Repeat for B and C. Now go back to the beginning and change your main idea to a number 2 and make number 1 ‘Introduction’. Go to then end and make number 3 ‘Conclusion’. Now you have an outline for your book. You probably learned how to do this in high school English. It’s a simple exercise that forces you to formulate in depth ideas about your topic and organize them in a chronological order. It is unlikely that you will use those exact categories. You will probably add some to some sections or only have one or two in others. The point is to do the exercise.

The next aspect is free writing. A lot of people might argue that research should be your next step before you write, but I disagree and here is why. Free writing forces you to write down everything you know and everything you feel about a topic. Take your outline and try to write a paragraph about each section. This may even cause you to create more in depth subcategories. This is good, because it will allow you to reach the absolute depth of your knowledge on a subject and express it in your own writing voice. Now you can start your research and adapt it to that voice. That is the key problem with researching first. You may find a source or two that expresses a lot of information, but can confuse your when you come back to your outline. Do not make your book fit your research; make your research fit your book.

So you have an outline and some paragraphs. Your ebook should be taking some shape now. It might even be several pages already, or even longer. Now it is time to do that research. First, go back to all your free writing and do some fact checking. This process will help you expand on your points or discard ones that now seem irrelevant. It will also help you focus your research on specific areas, thus decreasing the time spent doing it.

When you begin your research for your ebook, expand beyond your normal resources. You will likely go to Google first, but also check out Google Scholar for scientific and technical documents on your topic. Contact individuals with experience in your topic area as well. They can provide a wealth of information beyond Wikipedia and general Google searches. Be creative with your research and you will find more information than you need for your book.

Now take that info and organize it. How does it fit into what you already have? Does it add value for my readers or is it just filler? Does this support my premise or does it detract or confuse? Answer all these questions as you incorporate your research content.

When you are done with this process you should have a nice little rough draft of your book. Do a spell check and grammar check. Now save it and go take a nap, or a walk, or a jog. Then get something to eat, talk to your husband, kids or best friend, and watch a funny movie. Whatever you need to do, distance yourself from your book for a time, however long you feel you need to recharge your batteries. Novelists often put their completed rough drafts down for an entire month so they can return to it with a fresh and at least somewhat objective perspective. When you feel refreshed, go back to it and start editing.

Take out the parts that are superfluous. You don’t want your ebook to sound like a car commercial. Sometimes I start reading an ebook and by the second or third page, I realize they are repeating the same thing over and over. This sort of makes me angry that they are wasting my time. Some how-tos require going over key points later in a book, but repeating the same general idea over and over without providing any new information is just fluff. So comb through your content and make sure you are providing new ideas in each section.

Now that you have just the good stuff, read it out loud. Does it flow from one section to the next? Readability is important. If the subjects don’t seem to complement each other or you jump from one subject to the next without joining them, your reader will become confused and eventually discard your book. You want them to know the direction they are going when they are reading your book.

When you have edited your book to your satisfaction, let someone you trust proofread it. Try to find someone objective that will give you some good feedback. Take the useful information from that feedback and apply it to your book. Then give your book a title, format it to your liking and post it to your site! Congratulations, you are now a published writer! Now it is time to market your book and get started on the next one.

 

Writing Ebooks – Part 1

So one of the marketing tools I am trying to embrace is the ebook. I even wrote a very short one that you can find here The Sleepy Mommy’s Guide to Getting Baby to Sleep. This ebook strays from my platform, however, and I also have it up for sale. Those are two no-nos for promoting your brand, people. It was more an experiment and had less to do with marketing, but now that I am focusing back on building my online business, I need to narrow down my focus when it comes to writing ebooks.

First of all, don’t sell your book, give it away, for FREE. Yes, FREE. People will buy free stuff, even if they don’t need it. Then they will come back looking for more free stuff. And they just might learn something useful if you offer some value to your free stuff and come back to check you out. You are building a relationship with your readers, so if you want them to follow you, you need to give them some incentive.

You are now resigned to sell your book for free, good. Now you need to narrow your focus. This is the step I am currently working on, so I will use myself as an example. I am a working mom that is trying to move from my very demanding engineering job to a full-time writing job working at home. I could write an ebook about all that, but a) I am still working through the process, so I don’t have a knowledge base for write about it yet b) that is way too much information. So narrowing it down from there, I need to focus on a subject that I am knowledgeable in and can completely and precisely cover in an ebook. At the risk of getting trapped -style, I could write an ebook about writing an ebook. But I feel like the market is saturated with those, and you know, really? So I think that I will write an ebook about job search techniques for the working parent. I have had to do some interesting maneuvering to maintain my workflow and my household while I look for new work, so that is a skill set I can offer to my readers.

Now we have an idea, time to start writing. It will probably take you 3 or 4 hours to write a short ebook, 9 or 10 if you really want to jam pack it with information. But my advice is, say what you need to say in 10-15 pages. More than likely your ebook is a How-To, and no one likes to read a million pages of instructions. It needs to be concise and to the point. So I will focus my book on key points of job search techniques for working parents. This is niche, it does not include unemployed parents, or working singles, it is specific to a target audience. So my key points need to revolve around how I look for jobs, apply to jobs, and go to interviews while working full time and then raising two kids. There is  a lot of information there, but I have already found three key points that I can begin my outline with.

In review, these are the steps to start writing your first ebook:

1. Give it away for FREE

2. Narrow your focus to a niche topic that is brand related

3. Keep it short

Now it is time for me to get started writing. Tomorrow’s blog will include a more in-depth look at the writing process of an ebook and what to do with it when you are finished writing.