Friday, September 18, 2015

What Does It Take to Create an Efficient Writer’s Office?

When you decided to become a writer, you probably didn’t think of what you’d need beyond your computer. But it takes more than a computer to make a writer. In fact, while your computer may be the heart of your writer’s office, it’s only one small part.

As anyone who works from home will tell you, there are some serious benefits. You can't beat the commute or the flexibility you have when it comes to structuring your day. But there are also drawbacks. Creating a makeshift office at the kitchen table could mean important documents end up with a coffee ring or worse, go missing.

Working full-time from home means that you’ll be in your office for long periods of time. It shouldn’t be a make-do situation. Thoughtful room design can make all the difference. From task lighting to functional storage, here are a few pointers for setting up an effective home office:

Lighting: Ensure you have both general and task lighting to prevent eyestrain. Ideally, office lighting should illuminate your work space without adding glare to your computer screen.

Ergonomics: Arrange your desk, chair and the computer screen so you're sitting in a neutral position while typing. Avoid any positions that require twisting or leaning forward, as both put a strain on your back. A good adjustable chair is a must. And that adjustment should be more than just up and down.

Cable Management:
Computers are great but they and their peripherals require connecting cables—lots of them. Keeping them organized can be a challenge.  Keep control of cables with color-coded ties and clips. Identify each of them by taking an ordinary mailing label and folding it in half over the cable, then printing on it which device the cable connects to your computer. Don't forget to include a charging station for all of your electronic devices. Charging stations with multiple USB sockets are available online. Of course, you can always buy new wireless devices if you're on a broadband Internet network.

Since you’re going to be spending a lot of your time in your writing space, you’ll want to make sure it looks good. Don’t just put your computer in an existing room, but design the space to make it pleasant in which to work.  Consider the view from your office window. If you don't have the luxury of overlooking a beautiful outdoor space, add decorative touches indoors.

Storage: Integrate functional storage into your office space. Plan for future storage, for if you’re in business for quite a while, you’ll need it. If space is at a premium, go vertical, adding storage boxes and file holders to shelves. Today, you have a wide variety of storage containers and units to choose from. But think out your storage first and don’t succumb to building your office like topsy.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Passing Work Along

Most writers don’t even think of passing work along when they get swamped. But it’s good business to do just that. Instead of saying “No” as noted in last week’s blog, it might be a good idea to consider farming out some tasks. But which ones?

Obviously, you want to do all the writing. That’s only natural. But there are other more mundane jobs that could be done by someone else. Passing a task along to someone else in a more appropriate position to do it can maximize the value of your time—and help you make more money in the long run.

As the owner of a one-person business, you have only so many hours in a day to get things done, and that includes your writing and other household chores. So let’s begin with business tasks.

Whether an expert who knows something you don't, somebody under you whose time costs less, or a colleague with time to spare when you're in a crunch, delegating to the right person can be more efficient all around than taking on every task that crosses your path. To delegate work is not to dump, instead, it’s a way to assign a task in a clear, productive way.

Other tasks that could be delegated to someone else include doing background research, typing final drafts on another computer, taking photographs to accompany articles, sorting mail, and filing. The person you assign to take photos must be adept enough at photography to provide good results. However, the other tasks can be done by high school or college students looking to earn some extra money or seniors who are looking for something to do.

Either way, you need to pay these people. “Won’t that cut into my bottom line?” you ask. Yes and no. Paying them minimum wage to take care of these extra tasks will enable you more time to work on writing and thus to write more, increasing your income. Calculate what your time is worth and compare it to the cost of hiring out. It’s just good business.

So when is the right time to pass a job along? Usually, it’s when you face routine, technical, or short tasks or those you don't have time for.

An expert, such as a professional photographer, can often do specialized jobs better. And though they charge more, they can do the job faster and better than you can, saving you both money and time.

Tell the person who will be doing the task exactly what you want done. But unless you're teaching a brand-new skill, don't dictate how to do the job, itself. People learn more and are better motivated when they can figure things out for themselves. Communication is very important when you're delegating. And be sure to ask if the person understands what they are to do.

Tell the person exactly how much authority you're granting. In other words, how much they can do in your name. Is there a dollar limit to the job? A decision point at which you must be consulted? Defining authority helps the person perform the task within the bounds you consider appropriate.

Lastly, you have deadlines, and so should any person doing tasks for you. Set a deadline for any job you farm out and find out if the person can do the job within that time before they begin. What they’ll be doing for you may also affect your deadline, as in the case of outsourced photography. If you have a deadline on your end, make sure their due date is earlier in case they need extra time or you need to correct something.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Just Say No

After beating procrastination, you may have another challenge to getting writing done.
One of the biggest reasons work doesn't get done is that there may simply be too much to do. However, this rarely happens to a beginning writer. But one who’s been in the writing biz for a while can easily be overwhelmed.

Sometimes the biggest favor you can do for everyone involved is to just say "No." When the war on drugs, the Government adopted the phrase “Just say no.” But that can be a terribly hard thing to do, especially if you’re a freelance writer who lives from one project to the next. Saying no just may mean tearing up your meal ticket.

To get control of this situation, take these four steps:       

    ●    Know what's being asked of you and why. Determine if you’re in a position to handle a job. Do you have the expertise? And more importantly, do you have the time? If the answer to both questions is yes, then you understand the request and how it affects you.

    ●    Refuse the request—say "No." Sure, saying "No" is easier said than done, but just start with an "n" sound, and then put your mouth in the shape of an "o" and say "No, I'm sorry, I can't do it."

    ●    Follow your refusal with logical reasons. Simply and clearly state the reasons that you can't do the project. "No, I'm sorry. I can't do it because I have three other commitments." Some editors will take your “No” as a bargaining tactic and up the ante. But stick to your guns. If you accept higher pay but have to rush to get the job done and make mistakes, then you may put the relationship you have with that editor at risk.

    ●    If you can’t do the job, suggest some alternatives. If you understand the what and why behind the request, suggesting another way or another writer who may be able to do it is easier. "No. I'm sorry. I can't. but so and so knows just as much about that subject as I do and he may be able to do the job."

It’s important to keep the solid relationships you have with editors rather than risk losing them because you end up doing a bad job on a project Learning to say “No” will bolster your professionalism and encourage editors to call you when they have another project.