Work Logs

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The Work Log

With all the issues of certain companies trying to force people back into the office and workers more aware of unfair treatments, and issues such as realizing that HR is there to protect the company, not the employees, I wanted to share a very useful tool.

One of the best ways to see your progress or lack thereof in position is to keep a log. When you feel stuck or frustrated, you can see patterns. If you feel overlooked, or that management has changed their behavior toward you, you have patterns.  You can also see the patterns of growth, as you learn new skills and take on more responsibilities.

Even more important, if there is a dispute, you have documentation, and documentation is one of THE most important aspects of conflict resolution. You can bet your bosses/managers are documenting anything that might help them against you in the future.

That doesn’t mean the Work Log is all negative. On the contrary, I find the most useful logs have an holistic overview of the entire workplace situation. A company can tout their “culture” all they want, but, as they say, the devil is in the details.

The log shines a light on those details.

I encourage using Interview Logs as well, when you are on the job hunt. This will show you where companies try to take advantage of you with drawn out, multi-interview processes, unpaid labor as part of the interview process (including unpaid samples, tests, and one-way interview videos).

I have a contract for samples and tests as part of the interview process. I do not do “interview videos” because first of all, that’s about 3K of unpaid labor being demanded, and, second, an interview MUST be a two-way street, or it’s an audition. I am not an actor. I do not audition.

I keep a list of companies who want unpaid labor as part of the interview process so I can avoid pitching to them in the future (and let those who ask know that unpaid labor is part of their process). I am starting a list of companies that boast about using AI, so I know not to pitch to them, either.

You can keep your logs in a notebook or on a computer. If you keep a log in a notebook, take it home with you every night. Do not leave it in your office. If you keep it on computer, print it out regularly and make sure there is always an updated copy of it at home or in your personal email.

If you love Excel, I’m sure there’s a great way to keep a log as a spreadsheet. I prefer to use Word, since I am a wordsmith.

I have a resume log and a pitch log, where I keep track of where I send resumes and pitches/LOIs. It’s very similar to the submission log I keep for articles, short fiction, novels, plays, etc.

Those logs contain:

Name of Company

Name of individual (where appropriate)

Address of company


Date sent

Materials sent (resume, cover letter, LOI, clips, etc.)

Response and response date

This way I keep track of what materials are out where. I set a goal of how many pitches/LOIs to send out per month, and then try to break it down weekly. And then, of course, there are unexpected opportunities. I have a system in place of different resumes for different aspects of my work, vision statements, mission statements, and samples, so putting together a package takes a few minutes, rather than a few hours.

I keep these on my computer. I work remotely as an independent contractor, and use my own computer, so I’m not breaching any business etiquette. I do have separate logs for my fiction and my business writing.

If you don’t want to feel too spread out, you can expand your resume/pitch log to include any interviews. You can add paragraphs under the information, or list it in the response section of the log (if you’re doing a more spreadsheet style).

With interviews add in:

Date of interview

Names and positions of each person in the interview (if there are more than one)

Highlights of the conversation (both the good and anything that sends up a red flag)

Compensation and benefits discussions

Next steps and the time frame of those steps

Hopefully, you know the compensation range before you send a resume. I usually skip any listing that doesn’t state compensation. If I’m really interested in the company, I email them. If the response is “we don’t discuss compensation until the final interview round” I know this is not a company with whom I want to work. I also refuse to take any sort of personality test (such as DISC or Briggs Meyers) and have no interest in working with a company who wants to box and limit their employees in that way.

Highlights of the conversation are important, because what stands out for you matters. If you really liked something that was brought up, put it in. If there’s a red flag, put it in.

The “next steps” discussion matters, as does the time frame. Is there another round of interviews? Are we talking about paid samples (because unpaid labor as part of the interview process is not an option)? What is next? When will it happen? I always state, at some point during this portion of the conversation: “Please let me know, either way.” Because a company that ghosts interviewees is not worth my time.

If a company says no, but feel free to apply again, my response is, “HR has my information; if something opens in the future you think would be a good fit, they can get in touch with me.”

I’m not going to repeat the work involved in another application. They HAVE the information. If they don’t keep the information of qualified candidates, it’s usually a sign of very quick turnover and a red flag.

If they don’t respond within the time frame, I move on, unless I suspect there are extenuating circumstances (executive shuffle, new vision for the company, natural disaster, etc.) In the latter, I may get in touch about two weeks past our agreed-upon timeline to pleasantly follow up and remind them that I am checking in per our conversation.

This log will be extremely helpful anytime you are on unemployment benefits. Information from the log can go into your weekly claim form. The last time I was on unemployment, I think one only had to list information on 3 applications, but I believe you can list more. This changes from state to state, so check with your home state. You can also bring the log with you to any appointments with an employment counselor.

When you get an offer, make sure to get everything IN WRITING. Discuss specific points. Avoid boilerplates. Negotiate. Some negotiation may happen during the interview process, but don’t be afraid to keep negotiating what is in writing and have it all IN WRITING. A company that refuses to put things in writing is likely to be sketchy.

Now you’re there. So now it’s time to set up your Work Log.

Again, it can be kept in a notebook or on a computer. If you are full time in an office, there is nothing wrong with keeping the log on that computer (in fact, it’s useful, because if your manager ever asks what you do all day, well, there it is).

Email it to your personal email at the end of every day.

What goes in? Here are my suggestions. Feel free to expand, depending on your field.


Time clocked in

Work assigned (and by whom)

Work completed (and to whom it was turned in)

Meetings (who was there, highlights of discussion, time spent) whether they are in person or on Zoom

Phone calls (with whom, how long, what discussed)

Slack or other interactions

Lunch break

Short deadlines

Long deadlines

Unexpected additions to the day


Personal (such as if you have to take time off for medical appointments, family issues, etc.)

Time clocked out


In the notes, you put general impressions of the day, good and bad; things like planning for a co-worker’s birthday or if someone made an inappropriate remark or if someone offered help on something.

Keeping this log will help you see patterns in your work life within a few weeks. It’s not about being negative and looking for what’s wrong. It’s just as important to put in the positives. If more and more responsibilities are being shifted onto you without compensation or other positives, this will show how it’s happening, and you have the documentation over a period of time with dates and actions. The times when you’re being encouraged, mentored, and given opportunities, you have a chance to track your growth. If you’re sent on a workshop or take one on your own to gain new skills, put it in the log. If you take a trip for work, put information about the trip in the log (it will also back up your expense report).

You will see what areas of your job are working, and where you need to discuss changes. It will be enormously useful for an annual or semi-annual review. It is also useful if you are interested in moving to another position within the company, so you can see how you can transfer the value of your current position to where you want to be.

I’m stating something that should be common sense, but may not be: If you decide to job hunt while still at your old job, you keep your interview log on your home computer/notebook, not as part of your work log. Because the job hunt is conducted on your own time. If you have an interview during your lunch hour, your work log reads that you took an hour offsite for lunch, and your interview log has the details of the interview.

Independent Contractors

Most independent contractors I know keep similar logs as they track the time spent on individual client work. Time tracking matters whether you’re paid hourly or on a per-project rate, because then you can see where you need to adjust rates in the future.

These logs are useful for conversations with clients and for conversations with your tax preparer/CPA/bookkeeper.

This type of log is just as valuable for an artist or a part-time contractor in any field as for a full-time, salaried employee.

It seems like “just one more thing” to add to an already packed life. In reality, it takes about 10-15 minutes a day (often less, if you make notes after each meeting/phone call) and the value in terms of professional and financial growth is huge.

Do you keep work logs? How are they set up? How have you found them useful?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Reminder: This blog takes off the month of August, longing to be European. We will reconvene the first Wednesday of September. Enjoy August!

Managing Communication

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One of the great things about modern technology is that it gives us communication options. We no longer have to put up with our workday being derailed because someone interrupts us with an unscheduled phone call for something that’s not relevant to the task at hand, because they want to hear themselves talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of brainstorming and tossing around ideas to find the best approach. But if someone wants to talk their way through a task, I need to schedule it, so it works within my day, rather than destroying it. Being mutually respectful of each other’s worktime and work process results in better quality from all parties concerned.

What about communication tools like Slack, etc.? I do love ZOOM, although I’m a big believer that once you’ve said your hellos in a meeting, you can turn your camera off. We don’t need to watch each other nodding as though we’re hearing Deep Thoughts. We shouldn’t have to perform in a meeting.

Play readings, rehearsals, etc. via ZOOM have really upped the inclusivity and creativity of working across miles and time zones and I love it.

I’m careful about not overbooking ZOOM calls. I have a finite number of time slots available each week; when those slots are filled, the person requesting the meeting has to push it back to the following week or whenever there are slots open. One of the positive things we learned via the remote work during the pandemic is how few meetings we really need. Most work is done in spite of meetings, not because of them. There are exceptions, but if someone has constant “emergencies” it usually indicates poor planning, which needs to be addressed.

Since I am someone who works best in large swaths of uninterrupted time, I am often in “Do Not Disturb” mode on Slack or similar tools. I check messages at specific times in the workday and respond, the same way as I used to do in the old days, when I would unplug the phone as I worked and let the machine (in another room) take a message. Phone calls are scheduled, and they are billed separately from project time, in 15-mimute increments, the way a lawyer bills. We all know that when someone says, “let’s just jump on for a quick phone call” that we’re going to lose at least two hours of our workday. That time needs to be paid.

The quickest way to get a response is to email, because I check email whenever I switch tasks. It’s my palate cleanser, as is sometimes hopping on social media. It keeps the inbox and social media (both are vital tools of my work) under control, while still giving them the regular attention they need.

And, of course, I’m still a big fan of postal mail, but I use that more for personal communication than business communication at this point in the game. The exception is my quarterly direct mail campaign, which still usually gets a high response rate.

All of this is clearly set out in client contracts and in early work style conversations, so that it’s worked out before the project starts.

Another important point of communication: if it’s something that’s important to the process and the project, put it in the contract.

What are your favorite communication tools? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

When Tools Cost Time, Rather Than Saving It

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One of the positives of modern technology is that “they” keep coming up with cool new tools to play with, which are supposed to help us streamline our workday, increasing both productivity and efficiency. One of the negatives is that the people who create these tools rarely listen to the people who actually use them. I found that especially true working for a library, when the regional system changed software systems which created more work instead of streamlined it.

I love playing with new tools when they come on the market. I’m also far enough into my professional life that I know what I need and want in order to support the work, and few tools actually support it. Far too many get in the way of it.

Scheduling and project management tools are a good example. There are so many of them now: ToDoist, Asana, ClickUp, the list goes on and on. I tried a bunch of them, because I do love planning projects, I love calendars, and I have a system that works well for me about planning back from deadlines.

However, when I tracked the time these tools ate up, it turned out they cost me time (which means money), rather than saved it. First, I had to plan it all out and enter it into the schedule. Then, I had to go back into the tool and mark it when it was complete.

Compare that to my giant wall calendar that holds my deadlines in different colors. I add things in as they occur (5 seconds or less), plus spend maybe 20 minutes once a month adding in things like the serial episode release dates and the column deadlines. No need to wait for a computer to boot up, find the site, sign into the site, and then add it in the way the site deems it should be entered. No need to switch sites at the end of the day, sign in, and then update, which can take 20 minutes or more each day. I can pick up a pen and put a checkmark beside the task (1 second).

For me, it is a much more efficient use of time. When I tracked my time, I literally saved a few hours a week not using project management software. I work independently most of the time, rather than in a team situation, which is a whole different ballgame, and which we’ll discuss in a future column.

If I need the calendar on my computer because I’m moving between locations, I can take a photo and upload it. Or print it out and carry it with me. I often work in places without internet connection, so everything I need must be WITH me, not just in the cloud.

All much more efficient than all of these tools. I mean, ToDoist crossed a line when it told me to vacuum my house one day (something I did not enter into the schedule). I have a regular vacuuming schedule, thank you very much, and don’t need to be managed that way.

My rule of thumb with a tool is that if it takes longer to enter and update the information than to do the task, I ditch the tool.

When I draft my work, I draft in the format in which it will be submitted. In other words, I draft prose in standard manuscript format, which is evenly double-spaced all the way through, not the wonky spacing or single spacing most writing software uses. I draft scripts in script format. I draft poems in whatever way I want to spread out the words on the page (and I need flexibility for that).

Drafting in the format appropriate to that medium keeps me in the headspace for that medium, and allows me to use the craft of that particular medium and meet expectations better as I create it, rather than having to rework it later. It helps me create.

Being forced to draft in a software’s format that does not serve the work is just that, for me. It does not serve the work. It is, in fact, detrimental to the work.

I still love learning new tools and playing with them. Whenever a new tool comes out, I look forward to learning it. But I also know when to move on from them, when they start getting in the way of the work, rather than supporting the work.

What tools do you find useful? What have you ditched because it got in the way of the work? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Clean Up Time

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January is the time of fresh starts. So is September. So is the first of any month. So is the start of any day you choose to be a fresh start. You can start fresh and make things better any time you want. Isn’t that wonderful?

But January is the start of the new year, so it’s also a good time to do a cleanup.

Generally, I check on all my websites and book links and all the rest in September, and any time a new book or a new edition or a new distributor shows up, to make sure they are consistent.

But January is a good time to clean up the inboxes of my various emails. That’s not just about dealing with and/or deleting, but about deciding which lists I want to stay on, and which lists to drop.

Our websites are basecamp. I’ve often stated that if a business that wants my money only has a social media page and not a dedicated website, I don’t place my money there. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not serious enough about the business end of the business for me to trust them. We’re certainly watched enough social media sites fail in the last few years to understand the importance of having our own sites.

Newsletters are a vital part of many small businesses. I try to support as many fellow authors and artists via their newsletters as possible. However, some of those need to be cleaned up this year.

My own author newsletter is quarterly, which works for what I do. I don’t have a business/freelance newsletter, because that wouldn’t serve either me or my client base.

Many authors have monthly newsletters, and most of those are fine. Authors who’ve migrated to Substack look at that as a newsletter, and that’s often weekly. Since I’m done with all things Substack, I’m n the process of cleaning out and unsubcribing.

One of the things I’m doing in these early months of 2024 is culling the newsletter subscriptions, especially from those authors who aren’t, in turn, subscribed to my newsletter or supporting my work in other ways (such as liking or sharing posts about it on social media). I don’t want to get into the same cycle I was in a few years ago, of non-reciprocity, where I was doing the heavy lifting in far too many professional relationships. It’s on a case-by-case basis with some obvious exceptions.

I will support as many fellow artists as I can. In return, I hope they will support me. If they’re only looking at me as a customer rather than a colleague, the relationship is not what I need or want from fellow artists and I will adjust, while still wishing them success. If they’re “too busy” to treat me as an individual, they won’t miss that I unsubscribed anyway, and we’ll all be happier.

That will take a lot of pressure off me as far as getting snowed under in my reading, and also allow me to spend more time on the newsletters from my colleagues, and genuinely enjoy them. Instead of feeling as though I have to rush through the material because I have another 100 to read, I can take my time, follow links, and maybe even respond. I can enjoy and build the relationship.

As I do this, I will also look at who is subscribed to my lists, and make sure I am subscribed to their lists, where appropriate, in return.

Energy has to keep flowing between artists, or it gets stagnant. Artist and audience need to have a circular flow, not a stream in a single direction.

I’m taking myself off a lot of product mailing lists, too. If I want something from a particular supplier, I will go and hunt it down. There’s enough paid advertising to let me know when something new hits the market.

Something that I’ve noticed, over the past few months, from product lists, is those aggressive emails demanding that in order to “stay” on the list, I have to do a click through to “prove” I’m reading it, or the threat of dropping me if I don’t open the emails faster. First of all, if my little, tiny newsletter has the capacity to track how many people open and/or read it, a high-paid ad campaign platform can do the same. So you KNOW I’m opening the emails. Don’t make me jump through hoops to “stay on the list” because I won’t. I’m happy to be dropped. Or maybe, I’ll just click on your “unsubscribe” button and save you from following through on the threat. Second, I often put aside promotional emails and batch read them between other tasks that require more attention. I’m going to read your email when it works for ME, not when you want it for your metrics. Quick way to get me to unsubscribe. Third, threatening me isn’t keeping me as a customer, or enticing me to be a customer in the future. That aggressive edge of desperation is a turn-off, not a call to action or engagement.

I am also investing in more paid advertising for my own work, to broaden my reach to a larger public.

Note: that is not, by the way, an invitation for people to try to sell me their ad-making skills. I know how to create my own ads; when I run into trouble, I’ve built a network of fellow freelancers to whom I will turn (and pay) first.

I need to make room for healthier, more reciprocal professional relationships in 2024, and cleaning out various subscription lists is a part of it.

How are you cleaning up for 2024?

Build That Life

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There’s a popular meme that’s made the rounds for the past couple of years that says: “Build a Life You Don’t Need a Vacation From.”

In theory, that’s a great idea. It means find work that pays so you don’t have to stress about keeping a roof over your head (although with the ridiculous cost of housing right now, that’s rarely possible) and food on the table, but that is also work that gives you pleasure and fulfillment.

That’s a good thing.

Most of us go through periods in our lives where we have to take whatever work we can get, because we need the money. Often, that work is exhausting and makes us feel bad about our lives, and it’s hard to gather the energy to move beyond it to something that suits us better.

But doing so is better for us physically, mentally, and that leads us to better opportunities financially.

How do you build that life?

Ignore those who tell you to stop buying yourself a coffee on the way to work and only buy generic brands. Yes, that saves some money in the short run. But at this point in the game, you’d be several hundred years old for it to add up to the deposit on a house.

Plus, denying ourselves small pleasures all the time is unhealthy. The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring has an article about small pleasures/small annoyances, and how they affect goals.

There’s a difference between enjoying a cup of coffee and blowing the entire family’s budget for the month at a casino in one night. Understanding the difference and learning how to create small, enjoyable daily rituals helps in energy management so that you have the clear mind and strength to build the rest of what you want and need in your life.

One of the things we have to let go of is the sense that pleasure is a sin, and the term “guilty pleasure.” I do not feel guilty about that which gives me pleasure. And it doesn’t make it more titillating and exciting if it is “forbidden.” I am an adult. Others don’t get to “forbid” my choices, unless it is a choice that actively harms them.

Defining pleasure as sin and something wrong is an oppressor’s tool. Embracing our pleasures is a radical act. Much like rest is a radical act in a society that demands you literally work yourself to death for someone else’s profit, pleasure is also a radical act. Pleasure takes many forms, and is a threat to bullies and oppressors, because it teaches people that there is sensation beyond feeling hopeless or like the only way to have control is to harm someone else.

Start building acts of pleasure into your daily life, and you will be on the way to building a life that energizes you, rather than depletes you.

Doing work you love, however, will not negate the need for vacations. We all need breaks and change, even from the good stuff. We need to replenish our creative and energetic wells. If you don’t follow the Nap Ministry on Instagram (, I highly recommend them. And I am someone who does not nap; a nap at the wrong time will throw me off for days, thanks to my sleep issues.

But I’m learning how to court rest.

For someone whose career was built on 18 hour or more days, working in theatre and film production, this is a huge, terrifying shift. But it’s necessary.

I will always need and want vacations. But I am building a life that doesn’t make me want to run screaming away from it, or go home crying every night and then again every morning (the way I did a few years ago, when I landed what I thought was my dream job, and instead worked under the most toxic boss I’d ever experienced).

Do something TODAY just because it makes you happy.

Then do something tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

Build. That. Life.

Drop your favorite pleasures in the comments!

Professional Development

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What do you do to keep growing in your profession? How often, in job interviews, are we promised opportunities for professional development, and then the company is too understaffed and too busy to fulfill them? Or they expect the employees to give up their own time (and often money) for them?

Independent contractors have more flexibility in the what and when of professional development opportunities, but it’s still up to us to pay for them!

What do you consider “professional development”?

My definition of it means learning something I don’t know and acquiring new or stronger skills. I consider the whole “soft skills” definition a load of horse manure. Skills are SKILLS. There’s no “hard” or “soft.” It demeans the skills that make better humans, thereby making more positive workspaces.

Since I am a writer, everything I experience is material. Everyone I encounter is material. Which means just about anything can be professional development, because I can and will utilize it in my work at some point.

Some of what I consider professional development others might consider personal development, and I don’t see why they have to be separate. I believe that the best experiences grow as both as people and grow our skills.

I recently did an artist residency with a group of poets. Most of them use this time as something apart from their lives, because they have careers in other arenas, often careers they really love. So this was about growing in their craft, but it was also personal. I considered it very much both personal and professional. I do not have the grounding in the craft of poetry that they do, but I could learn from every poem that was brought into the space, even when it wasn’t mine. And my work was able to take a huge leap. The work was exciting, the sense of nurture and excitement about each other’s work was incredible, and I learned poetic techniques that will serve me well in ALL my writing.

The nine-week Nightwood Creatryx program with Nightwood Theatre in Toronto was definitely professional development, because it helped me grow in my work as a playwright, something that is very central to my work. It also provided personal development, because we all trusted and nurtured each other’s work, and we were all invested in each other’s work in very intimate ways.

What if I want to take a workshop working with clay again? I miss working with clay. But I am not a professional ceramics artist. I would take a workshop to play with clay, try new things, learn new techniques. Where would that fall?

Again, I see it falling into both. I take it for fun, to learn about shaping and forming and building and firing and glazing. Learning from my fellow artists, and learning what I can do with  my hands contributes to personal growth.

The physicality will give me sensory details. The steps will give me other details. So when I create a character who works with clay, the daily details will help make the character more relatable. Even though I take the workshop for fun, and personal growth, it will feed into my work.

I hope, overwinter, to find/take some sort of class that will make me more comfortable with web development. Something that will teach me not to fear CSS coding, and the rest. That will very much add a marketable skill to my toolbox. It will also encourage personal growth, because I will feel more confident and grounded in that work, and not tell myself I’m not smart enough to learn it. It will start as professional development, but also have a positive impact on personal growth.

How do you define “professional development”? Do you separate it from the personal, or consider them integrated?

Basecamp: Your Website

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: whether your profession is corporate, creative, or a mix, you need a website.

As a consumer, if I click on a link to a business and it takes me to a Facebook page instead of a website, I am deeply suspicious. If it has a domain name that leads me back to that Facebook page, I’m out. I am not spending money at that business.

Case in point: I spent over a year in my new location searching for a salon where I could get a good haircut. It took that long because most of the places around here only have a Facebook page, not a website. That’s not a business I trust.

It went beyond the “businesses” only having a social media page; most of them didn’t update it regularly.

Again, you are running a business. Part of that is a need to communicate.

If you believe you have enough clients and don’t need anymore. Good for you. And let’s hope none of them die or move.

One of the salons I considered, in another town, had a lovely website. I tried to use the online booking tool, which was “temporarily unavailable.” I used the contact form to ask how to go about booking an appointment, and how far out they usually book. That was in early February. We’re at the end of March, and I still haven’t heard back.

That is not good business. I will not place my money there.

Answer your email.

The salon I finally chose had a clean, easy to navigate site, online booking, and responded quickly to questions. When I arrived, the tone was a friendly and efficient and stress-free as the website. I got the best haircut and style I’ve had since I left New York, and will use them again.

Since many businesses are pretending the pandemic is over, so that they can force people back to work in unsafe conditions, they don’t get to use the pandemic as an excuse for not doing something as basic as answering email.

Demands for instant response are not appropriate, especially to a small business. But expecting a response within two to three business days is more than reasonable, in most circumstances.

With social media in turmoil right now, it’s even more important to have your own website. When you create an account on social media, the space belongs to THEM. They can kick you off, lock you out, or go out of business themselves. You have much more control over your website, and it can grow the way YOU want it to, not within someone else’s restrictions.

Purchase a domain name.

This is basic. You buy the name of your website (and try to keep it simple and relevant). That way, you own the domain name, and you renew it every year. I use Name Silo. They are reasonably priced and reliable. They are quick to answer questions and help you.

Find the Right Webhost for you.

You rent space, annually, from your webhost to park your domain. It is a different fee. Often, if you purchase multiple years at a time when you sign up, you can get a deep discount. Always read what the renewal rate is, even if you get a discount. That’s how you can figure if that webhost is compatible with your budget.

My needs include:

–Hosting multiple domains and subdomains

–WordPress capacity

–unlimited email accounts

I have had some awful experiences with webhosts. I’m with A2Hosting right now, and am happy with them more often than not. Their customer service is usually excellent, and they’ve either pointed me to the right information or walked me through the steps to do what I needed to do.

Keep Your Registration Separate from Your Host

As stated above, my domain registrations are with Name Silo. My host is A2. If and when I decide to move hosts, all I need to do is sign up with the new host and point the domain to that new host. (It’s a few more steps than that, give yourself a couple of hours to get the unlock codes and all the rest, but if the host won’t migrate you, it’s not hard).

I learned, the hard way, that if the webhost holds the domain registration, then they can hold your site hostage if you try to move hosts. That happened to me two hosts before A2, and it was a nightmare to untangle it all.

Back Up Your Site

At the very least, back up your text, and have a file with your photos.

Especially if you use a host-specific template, and drag and drop, rather than building on WordPress or Divi or Elementor, if you move hosts, you will lose your setup. But if you’ve saved your text and photos, you can rebuild (and better) on your new host.

It’s Okay to Go Simple

A simple landing page with information, address/hours (if appropriate) and some eye-catching graphics is all you need. Make sure your contact information is easy to find. A way to contact you via your website is vital.

Make It Easy for People to Contact You – and Respond in a Timely Manner

Have a contact form and/or an email address connected to the site. Then check it regularly and respond to legitimate emails.

If/When You Can Afford It, Hire a Developer/Designer

As your site and business grow, once you can afford it, hire a professional to make it look its best. Also pay them to teach you the basics to keep it updated, if you don’t want to pay a retainer to a webmaster.

Update It Regularly

Keep it fresh and relevant.

If you use WordPress, there’s usually a “posts” page where you can add fresh content or run your blog. I prefer to keep some of my blogs separate from my websites, but they were established while I was still with the host who controlled both my registration and websites and held them hostage. That’s no longer an issue. This blog is part of my website. Ink in My Coffee is separate from the flagship Devon Ellington Work website, but it’s been running for nearly 19 years, and it doesn’t make sense to move it.

Share on Social Media

Share the site on your social media channels, so people can find you.

If you write articles or guest posts, or work on projects, make sure you send your traffic back to your website. The website is always a stronger choice than a social media channel, although the two can feed each other.  Your website is a growing, changing, exciting part of your business, and will last far longer than most social media companies! Everything you do should lead to and from your website.

How do you use your website? Is it time for a refresh? Or is it time to build your basecamp?

Electronic Spring Cleaning

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Electronic Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again! Even if the weather is still lousy out there, we’re feeling the impetus to Do Things.

Along with the regular spring cleaning around the house, our desks, filing, taxes, etc., it’s a good time to do an electronic spring clean. I try to do this both spring and fall, to streamline my electronic and physical work environments.

Update your resume. Too often, we don’t do this regularly, and then have to do so in a rush and leave off important information.

Update your 50, 100, and 200 word bios that you regularly use in pitches, queries, LOIs, marketing materials, grant applications, speaking engagements, etc.

Clean out your inboxes. Even if you stay (mostly) on top of it on a daily or weekly basis, digging through will find things you missed, meant to look at “later” and other such things.

Look at your website(s). Freshen them, check links, delete what’s no longer necessary, update things that have been missed. Read each site, page by page, to fix typos. We often update our sites in a hurry and miss typos. Re-reading it after time away will help you catch things with fresh eyes. Since I have multiple websites, I try not to work on more than one site a day, or I get tired and miss things. I often still miss things, and friends give it an extra proof.

Move files you don’t need off your computer onto a USB or external hard drive (don’t delete them completely; that will guarantee you need them again). MARK THE DRIVE, or create a file printout and wrap it around the drive with a rubber band.

–Clean out your Google Drive/Google Photos/cloud anything else. Again, save it somewhere. You will need it.

Physically clean all your devices with the appropriate dusters, screen cleaners, etc. Go through apps and other materials on the various devices. I have a laptop, a Kindle, a tablet, and a phone that need attention.

If appropriate, run a defrag on the computer and free up space.

–Reassess your social media accounts. What platforms are serving you well? Which platforms are you serving (and shouldn’t be)? What aren’t worth your time? Because of the issues with Twitter, I’ve spent the last few months experimenting with various platforms. I’ve dropped three of them this month as part of my electronic spring cleaning.

Update your contacts. I keep most of my contacts on Rolodex rather than in my computer, so that’s more of a physical clean than an electronic one, but I check the contacts in my computer, too.

Clean up your bookmarks. Save what you want; see what’s no longer live. Delete what you don’t want/need/like anymore.

Review your memberships in various organizations, associations, online events, etc. Decide where it makes sense to stay, to spend more time, or step away. We grow and change, and our participation needs change, especially if an organization is more about stability than growth. Leave with kindness and respect wherever possible.

I usually spread this out over several weeks (while I’m doing the big physical spring clean, too). For me, it’s too overwhelming to do it all at once, so setting aside a block of time every day dedicated to electronic spring cleaning works better for me. You might prefer to put aside an entire day or two and get it all done.

What do you include in your electronic spring clean? Do you do this regularly? Is there something not on the list that you find useful? Drop a comment; I’d love to hear from you.

Creative Fuel

image courtesy of Speedy McVroom via

What do you use for creative fuel? Do you use elements similar to your work, or do you need something completely different from it to stimulate it?

So often, there’s a delineation made between freelance work for others and creative work one does with fiction or music or painting or whatever. In reality, these are all aspects of our career. We shouldn’t feel forced to monetize everything we do – hobbies are meant to give pleasure. But working in more than one sphere shouldn’t make us feel divided. The elements should feed each other.

When I feel depleted, I need to look at the why:

–Am I working too many hours without a break?

–Do I need to eat or drink something?

–Am I doing work that I dislike?

–Are these tasks/assignments pulling me away from my overall vision, or a path toward them?

Sometimes, we’re just tired. Sometimes, we just feel down about life, the universe, and everything. Sometimes, it’s our subconscious and/or our bodies telling us we’re on the wrong track.

Refilling the creative well with fuel will help us figure out the root cause of the depletion so that we can deal with it, instead of making a temporary fix to get us through the day or the pay period.

Eating foods that energize you in healthy ways, staying hydrated, and taking breaks help keep the day on a more even keel. If it turns out the root cause of your dis-ease is that you are taking on work you don’t like, or you feel that the work you are doing pulls you away from your vision and/or your core integrity, you can sit down and figure out how to make changes. It might be a series of small shifts that add up; it might be a break from what’s holding you back and a completely new direction. But refilling the creative well will help you make those choices from a stronger, more grounded place.

If you’re working too many hours without a break, schedule your breaks like appointments, so that you will actually do them, rather than skipping them. After lunch, I take 30-60 minutes to sit in my reading corner and read something that I’m not being paid to read. Often, it’s re-reading other writers or artists talking about their work: Twyla Tharp, Hilma Wolitzer, Natalie Goldberg, Anne Truitt, Elizabeth Berg, etc. I find it refreshing, and it reminds me to take joy in the work.

I’m attempting to add in a mid-afternoon break, of about 20 minutes, to lie on my acupressure mat, after doing a few backbends or similar stretches to counteract the time spent hunched over a computer.

When the weather gets nice again (today it doesn’t feel like that will EVER happen, but it will), I hope, at least a few times a week, to take a late morning/early afternoon break either out at The Spruces Community Park or up at Windsor Lake. I might bring a book or a notebook and write there. Or I might just sit and BE.

Walks don’t do it for me. Every time someone swears whatever ails me will be fixed by “taking a walk” I want so scream. Walking stresses me out (unless I’m walking a labyrinth). Going into nature and being still there works better for me.

Again, when the weather gets better and I can actually go out and about, I’m going to re-instate the weekly Artist Date. This is a technique Julia Cameron first talked about in THE ARTIST’S WAY. Once a week, you go and do something just for you. My “artist dates” tend to be going to look at art, going to listen to music, or visiting a bookstore or library. Cameron encourages one to do it alone, but as someone who spends so much time alone, I sometimes prefer to do it with someone. And sometimes an artist date will mean attending a meetup or an event by a small local business.

If I’m feeling stuck on a project, often the best way for me to shake the words loose is to go and look at paintings or sculpture.

The irony of refilling the creative well is that, for it to work for me, it can’t feel like it’s related to the work when I go and do it. However, as a writer, EVERYTHING relates to the work, somehow. Every experience is material. That’s why nothing we do or feel, as artists, is ever wasted. It’s part of the whole of our lives and makes our practices more holistic.

What do you use as creative fuel?

Research Gets Harder

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Research Gets Harder

As we build our freelance careers, we and our clients find each other through a myriad of ways: referrals, seeing work and wanting to work with the creator, putting out an ad, LOIs (Letters of Introduction).

One of the most important (and time-consuming) portions of the finding-clients process is researching and vetting them. This is getting more and more difficult, because of all the disinformation out there. Is what you’re hearing/reading about a potential client true? How do you vet?

If it’s a referral, then the person making the referral matters. If I’m referred by someone with whom I’ve had a bad experience (such as late payment or change of direction without renegotiating a contract or multiple points of contact trying to be heard instead of the single point in the contract), then I do extra research.  Because if a problematic client refers me, the person to which I’m being referred may also be problematic.

Freelancers talking to each other is important, especially when there’s a sense of trust between them. If you talk to a fellow freelancer and trust them to tell you the truth of their experience, rather than worried they will try to sabotage you, everyone wins. If another freelancer, especially one I know well and respect, has a bad experience with a company, that’s a red flag on the company for me.

I keep a list of companies that have asked me for free labor as a part of the interview process. This includes any sort of “test” or expecting me to create something specific to their company, especially before any conversation has happened. “Oh, it’s just a headline” or “it’s just 300 words, it should take ten minutes” means they don’t understand what I do, and they don’t respect it.

Big Red Flag.

I have a specific contract for tests and samples. When the demand is made, I send the contract. Nine times out of ten, the company ghosts me. The tenth time, someone argues with me and says, “But I had to do it. It’s not a big deal.”

And my response is, “I’m sorry your self-esteem is so low. This company and I are not compatible.”

If someone asks me about a company and they’re on my list, I let them know the company expects free labor as part of the interview process, and the individual can decide from there.

I research the company online, see what kind of “giving to the community” they involve themselves in, check out and Glassdoor’s reviews about companies, interview experiences, etc. Although, for the latter, if I don’t know the individual, I am less likely to take it at face value without digging deeper.

It gets even more complicated if you want to know the ethics and political positioning of the company. I don’t want to work for a company that funds politicians working to strip me of my rights and promoting authoritarianism. For me, there is no middle ground. Others will say, “Oh, politics doesn’t matter when you’re a professional. Just do the work.”

Fine for you. Not fine for me. Why would I give my time, energy, and creativity to a company actively working to cause harm? For a little cash? In the short run, it might help me as an individual. In the long run, it hurts the collective community.

Saying no up front is a better choice for me.

If I’m vetting a non-profit, I start here: Charity Navigator. Then, I take the information, and look for at least two independent, trustworthy confirmation sources (the way I did as a journalist).

When I want to know which candidates companies or executives donate to, I see if I can locate the politician’s public donor list. I check and Open Secrets. I use the FEC’s database of individual contributors. I also keep an eye on Marc Elias’s Democracy Docket, which fights to protect voting rights. With Citizens United, there’s plenty of dark money that’s harder to track, but these are places to start, and then, again, get independent, trustworthy confirmation sources.

Decisions are made from there.

This takes time.

But instead of saying “I don’t have time” I believe that choosing to place my time in this research serves my overall vision for my work and my career better.

How do you research companies in which you are interested?