Ink-Dipped Advice

Clean Up Time

A sparkling clean window in an empty space.
image courtesy of Muntzir Mehdi via pixabay.com

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?

Social Media Experiments Part 3

social media apps on a phone

December 8, 2023: More Social Media Experiments

This should have gone up on the 6th. Apologies.

I’ve settled into several platforms pretty regularly, and I’m sharing my experiences. This is the third post of the year about these various platforms. I’ll probably do it annually moving forward, but this year was such a year of social media tumult, it made sense to update the experiments.

Again, this is my experience with my own work, not for clients.

The blunt truth is that, unless a site drives traffic and results in sales of my work, I can’t put the time into it. Hanging out and being social is fine, but it also has to drive traffic to my sites and result in sales.

Bluesky: This has become the platform on which I am most active. It took a bit of time to acclimate, but as more and more writers, artists, publishers, agents, etc. migrate over, it makes sense to be there. I have some great conversations, there’s support for the work, it drives traffic back to the work, and I’ve had two short stories published in publications whose submission calls I originally found on the site. I’m strict about curating my feed and quick to block. There are bullies and shitposters, and I have not time or patience for that. Immediate blocks are my best tool. I reconnected with some former colleagues from Twitter, and have met up with a bunch of new people who I really enjoy. It’s getting to be the site where I can post a question about something and get viable answers, as it continues to grow.

Bookbub: Still haven’t spent enough quality time there to make it work. It’s not a typical social media platform, but it could be a good marketing tool, if I would make the time to use it properly.

Cohost: Have not been on it since March, don’t intend to go back. It did not meet my needs; its user base is not my target audience.

Counter Social: I’ve been on there less frequently. The garden posts and inks to short story publications and articles get traction. The serials get nothing. The conversations aren’t as varied as they were a few months ago, but I figure it’s cyclical.

Creative Ground: I keep my profile updated over there, and I’ve started using it to find organizations to work with, or individual artists for collaborative projects. It is New England-centric, but I like it. One of their offshoots, Arts Hub of Western MA, boosted our Boiler House Poets Collective Reading to their audience in autumn, and, through them, I found a submission call for an ekphrastic poem at an Easthampton Gallery. My piece was one of those chosen, and I attended the exhibit opening to read my piece with my fellow poets, and met others there with whom I’m still in contact. Setting up the profile was a PITA, but it was worth it.

Ello: Sadly, this site tanked in June. It was one of my favorites, and drove a lot of traffic that resulted in sales in its heyday, a few years back.

Facebook: The Vella author groups make it a necessity. I use it for that, for ads to promote my work, and to keep up with friends who aren’t on other social media sites. Not one of my favorite platforms. The reality is that Facebook ads result in sales, so whatever I feel about the platform, it is a necessity for my income.

Hive: No longer try to use it (it was clunky) and don’t miss it.

Instagram: I’ve upped my Instagram use a lot since summer. In addition to it being my “fun” account for posting photos of cooking, reading, sewing, decorations, cats, it’s also a solid promotional tool.

Ko-fi: Haven’t used it in months. Am re-thinking how I want to use it.

Linked In: Tired of skeezy “businessmen” looking for sex pretending they’re hiring for a legitimate job. Tired of recruiters wasting my time, not wanting to give out basic information such as salary and job parameters, and contacting me for positions that have nothing to do with my actual profession. I’m a writer. Don’t contact me about a practical nurse vacancy. Total waste of time.

Mastodon: Hit and miss. Slowly building connections. It’s difficult to find people. Sometimes it drives traffic, sometimes it does not. There are writing games that are fun (provided no one asks for snippets of WIP – posting unpublished WIP on ANY site, thereby blowing first rights, is a nonstarter for me).

Pinterest: Haven’t finished implementing the changes I want to on my account. But it’s on the list for next year, so I can utilize its potential better, especially in terms of the serials.

Post: I use it more to read news than for interaction. I do post promos.

Ravelry: Haven’t been on it in months, although I will probably spend some time there over the winter, when I do more crocheting.

Spoutible: Some interesting people and good information/conversations. But it’s skewed more to politics and music than writing and other arts, so I spend less time there than I did initially. I like it, most of the time; there just aren’t enough artists on it, and it doesn’t drive enough traffic to my sites.

Substack: I like it, and enjoy the Notes feature, but the growth is much slower than I would like. I don’t like the hidden tiered system they use, where they pay some of their writers, but expect others to generate their own followings/income. I am unhappy that they allow right wing misinformation outlets to monetize the platform in the name of “free speech.” The amount of reading material is overwhelming. I’m in the process of unsubscribing from a lot of my subscriptions, especially if it’s not mutual.

T2: They changed their name to Pebble and then went out of business a few weeks later.

Threads: Have not tried it. I have friends who love it. I’m not sure why I’m so reluctant, except that it’s overwhelming to add One More Thing. Maybe once I clean up my Substack, I’ll have the spoons for it, but I don’t right now.

TikTok: Probably the best platform resulting in sales, even without ad buys. There’s no way I could afford an ad buy on TikTok. Just in regular views, it grows exponentially, week to week, and results in sales. It takes me about an hour to do the week’s episode videos for the serials, now that I have a template. It takes longer to do individual project videos. But they get results. I am not on camera, and it’s not that hard to create videos without being on camera.

Tribel: Haven’t been on it in months; don’t miss the screaming.

Tumblr: Decent at driving traffic to the sites, although conversion to sales is lower than TikTok or Facebook. I hear rumors that it’s in trouble and may close soon; that would be a shame.

Twitter: Twitter is dead, intentionally destroyed by Yegads Muskrat. I do not acknowledge the site known as X. I locked my account in August and have not been back. I do miss it, and I miss the reach, the traffic it drove to my sites, the conversion rates, but that’s what rebuilding is all about. That’s why it’s so important to have a website one OWNS, and not rely on social media platforms owned by others.

There are several other dozens of sites out there, such as Spill, Minds, Reddit, etc., which I don’t use. Most I haven’t tried. If it’s only app-based, with no desktop/laptop option, I’m out. I don’t like Reddit because its brand is bullying, as far as I can see. Besides, the above list keeps me quite busy enough!

I’m also frustrated that there’s not an affordable scheduling tool that goes across all the platforms I need. I could budget in paying for a tool, if it did what I needed it to do. But none of them – Buffer, Hootsuite, and the like – give me all I need, and I won’t pay for partials.

What are your favorite social media tools? What do you find drives traffic best to your sites? Which tools give you the best conversions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Build That Life

image courtesy of Melk Hagelslag via pixabay.com

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 (https://www.instagram.com/thenapministry/), 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

people sitting around a wooden table with pens, appers, laptop, beverages, eyeglasses, and brainstorming
image courtesy of StartupStockPhotos via pixabay.com

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?

Keep Your Word

Puzzle pices spelling out "Trust" in white letters on a gradient blue background
image courtesy of Gerd Altmann via pixabay.com

Whether you’re an independent contractor or hiring an independent contractor (or anyone else, for that matter), keeping your word matters.

Yes, we have contracts to make sure the specifics, scope, expectations, deadlines, and payments are detailed.

Your word still matters.

Don’t promise more than you can deliver

On the independent contractor front, that means understanding the scope of the project and the expectations, and making decisions on whether or not you can deliver. If there are red flags in the scope and expectation, bring that up before you sign the contract. Work out the details.

On the hiring front, make sure you are clear about what support and resources you KNOW you can deliver to your contractor, not what you HOPE to deliver.  Whether it’s contact information, office space, or graphics to support the project, make sure you have it in hand before you offer it. Make sure you know the project’s budget and payment schedule. Don’t agree to one set of terms, and then present the contractor with a written agreement that’s completely different.

Keep clear lines of communication open

We live in a transient world. Things change all the time. Sometimes it’s a change of hierarchy above the person hiring. Sometimes it’s illness or a natural disaster.

Whatever it is, if something has to change, communicate EARLY and OFTEN.

Discussing challenges, obstacles, and sudden changes is different than making excuses. It’s the difference between being active and passive. The more active you are in the relationship, the more likely it will be positive for both sides of it.

As soon as you know there’s going to be a problem, communicate. And communicate with possible solutions for whatever is going on. Then, listen to the other side of the communication, so you can come to a mutual beneficial agreement.

Support that verbal agreement in writing, updating whatever written agreement is already in place.

Complete your commitment and then make decisions about the work relationship moving forward

Unless it is impossible or dangerous, complete the commitment you made, even if the situation is challenging.

Once the project is complete and paid, then take a few days to decide whether or not this is a relationship that should continue. Don’t make a decision when you’re feeling exhausted or burned out. Give yourself time and grace to think it through, and work out if there were other possible options in the scenario.

Plenty of clients choose not to re-hire a freelancer. That works both ways. If the experience was more negative than positive, then disengage, and you can both move on to work with others who are better fits.

Completing the assignment before moving on shows that you take the commitment seriously.

Try Not to Overbook

We talk a lot about the feast or famine cycle in independent contracting. Sometimes, we’re so worried about a possible upcoming famine, or we know we have a big expense looming, that we overbook.

Try to keep a realistic schedule. There will always be times when we need to push through or push harder to finish something and meet a deadline. Sometimes, we have to do it when we don’t feel well or when we are burned out.

Sometimes we take on too much because we either misjudge how long something takes, weren’t given the correct information about it, or because there is more than one excellent opportunity, and we’re afraid of losing them.

We make our choices, and then we follow through on our decisions. That’s part of what makes people want to work with us again. Someone wildly creative who is unreliable causes pain, stress, and extra work to others on the project, and, eventually, people step away and stop working with them (in most situations; there are always exceptions).

If you overbook, do your best (and often more) to meet those commitments, and then take a rest, a step back, and look at ways to avoid painting yourself into that corner again.

Earn trust from others through your actions, and build trust with them when they reciprocate. Make note of whom you can’t trust, and see how you can avoid working with them in the future. If you can’t avoid it, see what mitigation fallbacks you can put into place.

Keep your word. Don’t give your word unless you plan to follow through. Learn to say “no” when something isn’t the right fit. Communicate clearly. Learn from what does and from what does not work. Meet others with kindness and grace while holding firm, realistic boundaries.

Basically, be the type of person with whom you want to work.

Reinvention Time

Balloons, dirigibles, and cogs on parchment above a book flanked by a candle on each side.
image courtesy of Dorothe via pixabay.com

The break on this blog was certainly longer than just August. The aim is to post on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, moving forward. The first Wednesday did not work, since there was some kerflamma with WordPress. So, here we are.

The WGA Strike hit me hard, at least as far as income is concerned. It’s worth it, since the studios want to destroy this particular art form both as an art form that communicates to hearts and souls, and as a viable profession. The strikes that have happened across the country this year are necessary.

But that doesn’t make the day to day and month to month demands on bills any easier.

And it doesn’t make roll my eyes any less and forward to the Guild all the predatory scabbing attempts that try to workaround the strike that regularly land in my inboxes. And delete all those crap emails about “full-time freelance” (for a single employer) or “20 hours, but you must be available to work 37.5 hours” emails that also land in my inboxes. That’s called an unbenefited employee, and nope, not doing it.

In spite of that, the bulk of my work has not been in the typical nonfiction independent contractor field over the past few months, and that’s okay.

I was fortunate to be a part of the Dramatists Guild’s End of Play program in April, in which I wrote the first draft of FALL FOREVER, a full-length play that was born in June of 2022 in a playwrights’ workshop hosted by the Williamstown Theatre Festival. I was even more fortunate to have it chosen for a virtual reading in early May with some wonderful, dedicated actors. The play has gone through a few rounds of thorough revisions in the interim, and is now out on submission. Fingers crossed.

At the end of May, I attended a local small business expo. I had a wonderful time, exchanged a lot of cards, and have had a lot of fun following up, chatting, and planning future projects with fellow entrepreneurs.

In July, once again, I was part of Word X Word Festival’s Very Large Poem, where 51 poets created a collaborative poem that flowed around the audience seated in the center. It was an amazing experience. In August, I was part of their Poets in Conversation series, creating a piece around the topic of book banning and gun violence. In October, I create another poem for that series on the topic of work.

In late July, I was able to begin a year-long project at the Clark Art Institute creating ekphrastic poetry, flash fiction, and plays inspired by various art pieces, both in traveling exhibitions (such as their PROMENDADES ON PAPER and  EDVARD MUNCH: THE TREMBLING EARTH) along with work from their permanent collection. I go about once a week and spend time with various pieces. Later this autumn, I will do some research in their library.

In August, I was finally able to go down to research in the Westchester Archives about my Playland Painters (the five women who painted the props at Playland Amusement Park from 1928-1940). I found names for the original painters, and I am in the process of tracking them through libraries, archives, and census records around the country, to see if I can prove if any of them are the women in my photo. I also learned some fascinating information that fed into a project mentioned later on.

From August through early October, I’ve been honored to be a part of Nightwood Theatre’s Creatryx 3.0 unit. Nightwood is a feminist theatre company in Toronto, and they put together an amazing group of theatre artists to create and support each other’s work. I’ve worked on a full-length stage drama with the working title of FROZEN AT THE PALACE THEATRE, again born in the 2022 Williamstown workshop. I also shared the opening of THE WOMEN ON THE BRIDGE, another full-length stage play, inspired by Munch’s 1904 painting of the same name (also sometimes referred to as THREE GIRLS ON A JETTY). The feedback on both has been enormously helpful. The plan is to finish the first drafts of each of them by the end of the year.

Through all of this, I’ve continued with the serials. Legerdemain, the fantasy/mystery, continues to drop episodes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s structured to be ongoing (not a book released in chapters) for as long as it’s viable. It even has its own website. Welcome to Legerdemain, a city of magic, misfits, and murder.

Angel Hunt, the urban fantasy about a witch, an angel, and an impossible task, releases new episodes on Wednesdays and Fridays. It is finite and completely written; I’m still uploading it and expect it will end in Spring 2024 after around 140 episodes. If it continues to be viable, I have several more seasons planned, and have started writing season 2, called The Lighthouse Lady.

Deadly Dramatics, the retro mystery about love, lust, theatre, rock and roll and murder, set in 1996 New York, launched this past July. It is completely written and uploaded, with new episodes going live on Wednesdays and Saturdays until October 5, 2024 (it runs 128 episodes). If it continues to be viable, there will be more seasons. I have some outlines, and I’ve started writing season 2, The Vicious Critic.

You can watch intro videos on all the serials on my serials page, and there are new episode videos on TikTok for each episode drop.

I’ve written some short stories, two of which will appear later this year. “Lavender” will be in New Zealand’s FLASH FRONTIER in October, and “The Forest Library” will be in DOES IT HAVE POCKETS? In December.

One of my ekphrastic poems was chosen to pair with a woodblock print out in Easthampton, and I was able to attend the show’s opening and read, with my fellow poets.

I’ve had conversations with several radio producers and have more radio plays out on submission.

I still release a new column of The Process Muse every Wednesday over on Substack.

I’ll be part of Llewellyn’s 2025 Spell-A-Day Almanac; since we write two years ahead, those 25 short pieces went out the door a few days ago.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend art openings and open studios and see some excellent theatre over the past few months. I enjoyed meeting fellow artists, got inspired by their work. One of them even taught me how to work with Gelli plates, and now I am obsessed. I’m also experimenting more with clay, textiles, and mixed media.

Where does that leave the freelance contractor work?

The demise of Twitter meant I took a hit in sales for the Topic Workbooks, the other books, and negatively affected the serials. As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m experimenting with different social media channels. I posted in January and June about my experience, and will do another post in December of this year.

I need to spend more time in the Kindle Vella promotion groups on Facebook, but I can only do so when I can commit the time to read others’ work.

I’ve loved the work I’ve done these past months, and it makes me rethink the kind of work I want to do as a freelance contractor. Opportunities that I would have jumped at even a year ago no longer have an appeal. And that’s okay.

It’s about redefining how I want to work in partnership with other businesses and communities moving forward. Between weather and rising COVID numbers, it will be a pretty isolated winter of remote work again, and I need to seek out partnerships that will carry through the winter into spring and be fulfilling on both creative and financial levels.

I have some irons in the fire for next spring going into next summer, and we’ll see what does and does not pan out, and make further decisions from there.

I’m maintaining my decision not to take on social media work for clients at this point. With the fractured social media landscape, I do not believe I am the right person for that job. And my refusal to use AI in any of my work informs a lot of my decisions with whom to work.

I’m not counting on the strike to be settled before the end of the year, and am therefore looking at other work. If the strike ends earlier, and the script analysis and/or scriptwriting work picks up again, I can make decisions on a project-by-project basis.

I hold the boundaries of no unpaid labor as part of the interview process. That includes project specific samples, tests, or introductory/interview videos. All of that should be paid labor, and any “business” who expects it for free is not someone with whom I’m interested in working.

I’ve noticed a lot of businesses are trying to revert to pre-COVID policies and marketing strategies and then they act surprised when no one (neither customer nor potential employee) is interested in buying what they’re selling. I’ve had several “why aren’t you interested in working with us?” and “why won’t you do this for free?” questions over the months, and I have been straightforward in my answers.

We don’t live in the same world as we did at the end of 2019, and the same old strategies are not going to work.

That is as true for me personally and professionally.

I have no idea, at the moment, where this will all lead. I’ve reworked my resume and my LOI template. I’m preparing to go into residence in The Studios at MASSMoCA next week with the Boiler House Poets Collective; soon after that, I have jury duty.

In the meantime, I’m compiling a list of potential clients to whom I plan to send either project proposals or LOIS.

What are your plans for fall and winter? How are you changing your focus in your work?

Social Media Experiments, Part II

image from Pixabay.com

My first post of the year was about exploring some of the multitude of social media platforms to see what works best for my work and my interests.

I’ve kept expanding on those experiments, and here are results from January to the end of May. In general, I’m irritated by the way platforms attack anything that is not their platform, yet continue to share/copy posts from the disparaged sites. I don’t want to hear about what’s wrong with Twitter when I’m on a different platform; that’s why I’m not on Twitter in that moment. I don’t want to see Twitter posts screenshot on another platform. If I want to see a Twitter post, I will go on Twitter. Cultivate your own garden and stop gossiping about the neighbors.

Again, this has to do with MY work and interests, not those of clients. I’m not doing social media work for clients at this time. There are also platforms I choose not to be on or haven’t heard about.

Here’s the update:

Bluesky:  is now live. Even though I signed up as a beta the first week it was announced, I have not received an invite, which is not surprising. I’m not a big enough name to garner early usage. That, however, is a red flag for me. If they’re curating invitations by name recognition, it is probably not the right place for me, on any level. I want something with a more level and more interesting playing field. Unfortunately, if that’s where my audience migrates, I will have to, eventually, get on there. So far, most of what I hear about it is negative. Yet many migrate there anyway. Then, there’s the report that Dorsey’s endorsed RFK Jr. for President. (head desk).

Bookbub: I have not put in the time I need to put in on this platform yet. I hope to do better this summer. I’m missing opportunities.

Cohost: In January, I took one day per week to spend more time on the platform. It confirmed that the members have different interests than I do, or that I explore in my work. The lack of interaction got more and more frustrating. Posting just to post doesn’t do it for me. The ratio of time:payoff wasn’t there to create unique content for the platform, and I don’t post WIPs (why post subpar work AND blow first rights)? By mid-January, I stopped posting regularly for the last two weeks for the month. In February, I only posted the #28Prompts on the site, just to see if a single type of content performed better. There was zero interaction. I haven’t deleted my account, but I haven’t been on the platform since early March.

CounterSocial: It continues to be a good place for in-depth conversation, although there are ebbs and flows of screamers and trolls. As I said in January’s post, they usually weed themselves out when they are attention-starved, or do something to get bounced. There’s a lot of focus on music, and sometimes conversations feel a little cliquish, but there are also some good conversations I don’t have elsewhere. It tends to drive traffic more to the blogs than the serials. I get the highest response to pieces on the garden and on food. The last month or so, interaction has tapered off, and I’m wondering if people are migrating elsewhere.

Creative Ground: I updated my profile, but I’m not utilizing it to its full potential.

Ello: This was a favorite platform, with the highest rates of views and click throughs. The other creators I found on it are pretty wonderful, too. However, I started having log-in issues back in March, and have not been able to get into the platform.

Facebook: This site is a necessity I don’t particularly enjoy. I originally went on it because it’s the only social media certain people with whom I want to stay in touch use. As I expanded into Kindle Vella serials, FB is vital, with their various reader and author groups, to getting eyes on the serials and expanding their reach. Also ads that run on Facebook and Instagram result in sales. Therefore, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Hive: I’m really frustrated by Hive’s limitations. It demands high visual content, which I can’t do unless I can work on the laptop. But the app only works on a phone (which I don’t want) or sort of works on the tablet, where I don’t have access to my graphics. It’s working for those who bring with them a large following from another platform, and who have high tech phones that can do the graphics work, from what I see. I’d like to be more involved there, but forcing me to place it on devices I don’t want to work on means I can’t. It’s like being stuck in traffic, and you can see the really fun party down the road, but you can’t actually join it. I tried to post #28Prompts on there, but couldn’t get into it half the time, and gave up.

Instagram: I’m having more fun with this platform, although I’m annoyed I can no longer cross post with Twitter, only FB. It makes me think in terms of visual shares, rather than just verbal. It’s still what I consider my “fun” account, mostly cats, garden, cooking, books. But I do post ads for the serials and for The Process Muse on it, and drives traffic to both.

Ko-fi: I cut back on this, because the time:money ratio wasn’t working for me. I am going back to put some content behind a paywall (so it won’t be scraped for AI) and will consider how I want to use the platform moving forward.

LinkedIn: Continues to be useless for what I do.

Mastodon: At first, there was a huge influx from Twitter. But people got frustrated with the learning curve and different codes of conduct on different instances, and a bunch of them left. The ones who stayed are interesting, though, and I’m having fun with conversations. I’ve had a lot of fun playing #WritingWonders, and I’ve had good conversation with writers, screenwriters, various industry professionals, fiber artists, photographers, visual artists, etc. It’s harder to find people, but once you do, there’s the capacity for conversation. Again, some of the interaction has tapered off, and it doesn’t drive traffic to the serials (many people are highly anti-Amazon on the platform).

Pinterest: I’m in the process of putting up Legerdemain’s episode graphics up. They changed the way the boards are accessed, and I’m having trouble re-learning it. Again, I’m not utilizing the platform’s full potential.

Post: The more time I spend on the site, the more I like it. It’s difficult to get interaction, but not so difficult to get eyes on content. It drives traffic well back to the sites, the serials, The Process Muse, and individual articles. I think it’s one of those where things build slowly. It’s a very calm site, and some people think it’s bland, but there’s the chance to read a wide variety of material there, and take one’s time so doing.

Ravelry:  I have not been on the site in months. I made the mistake of downloading a pattern and was put on a mailing list that sends me 20-30 emails a day; when I “unsubscribe” they just change the name on the sender. It’s caused a lot of problems in that inbox and will take weeks to unravel (no pun intended).

Spoutible: Early on, I was rather skeptical of the platform, but the more I use it, the more I like it. There’s a wide range of users across a wide range of interests. It’s easy to find people, follow, and interact. There’s decent and building interaction on the platform. I’m leery of a specific core group who attacks anyone who disagrees with management’s decisions. To me, that is behaving like what they claim to protect against. And yet, the site overall is developing its own personality and settling into a mellower and more conversational vibe, which I enjoy.  I’m steadily building a community there, and having some good conversations. There seems to be more room for an artist community there than on some of the other sites that skew toward politics and only politics. It had a steady build in engagement over the past few months, and drives traffic to the other sites.

Substack:  The newsletter is growing more slowly than I would like, but it’s steady. I have good conversations, and there’s such a wealth of fantastic material that it’s difficult to keep up. I’ve started reading the other newsletters to which I subscribe as palate-cleansers when I shift tasks, which helps. I absolutely love the “Notes” feature, and have had some lively and interesting conversations there. This has the largest community of writers and artists of the platforms I’m exploring, which is why I enjoy it so much.

T2: This is supposedly a new platform created by ex-Twitter engineers. I signed up on the waiting list to beta test and have heard nothing. Perhaps they changed their minds, once Bluesky launched.

TikTok: I bit the bullet and started a TikTok account in May. The challenge I’m enjoying is creating short, engaging videos without putting myself on camera. I’m frustrated that I have to do edits for sound credits on my phone rather than on the desktop, and even more frustrated that one can only edit a sound credit once, and what posts still isn’t correct or what I put in the edit line. I’ve created introductory videos about my work, and, right now, use it primarily for the serials. I have introductory videos up for the serials, and then I have templates into which I pop the information for each new episode. It’s definitely driving traffic to the serials at the moment. As I work on other creative projects this summer (and once I get my new camera), I will play with more types of videos and see what I can come up with (still remaining off camera).

Tribel: I find that waaaay too many members follow to get someone to follow back, then unfollow. And too many people have no profile information and/or no original posts. Again, similar to Twitter, it’s about algorithms. Since I started on the platform, it’s more about politics and less about art (and the impact the arts can and do have on politics and all aspects of life). I got increasingly frustrated with the platform, even after trying to spend more time on the platform to find more colleagues. In February, I only posted the #28Prompts. By early March, I rarely went on it anymore. Too much screaming, not enough conversation.

Tumblr: In January’s roundup, I forgot to mention Tumblr, even though I’ve had an account there for years. It automatically cross posts from some of the blogs, and then I visit it to drop the newest links to the serials. When Twitter started flailing, there was an influx, and it looked like it was going to get wider engagement, but that’s scaled back. I still post steadily and visit a few times a week, trying to engage more.

Twitter: Twitter just makes me sad, most of the time, now, so I spend less time on it. I’m sick of people demanding free administrative labor by others on their accounts, claiming they “can’t tell” if anyone “sees” their tweets. No, I am not doing your hoop jumping because you are too lazy to go through your follower list. Fuck off. And the amount of “faux engagement questions” that people have no intention of engaging, but just ask something to get a high rate of responses irritates me. I’m blocking a lot faster than I used to, and that helps a lot. I locked my account in May, because there were too many trolls, which has hurt engagement and traffic. Also, a good portion of my audience is no longer on Twitter. The fact that I can no longer directly post from WordPress or from Insta is a big minus. However, with the WGA Strike going on, it’s the primary source of discussion with other writers affected by the strike. It’s frustrating. Also, they want me to “choose” which kinds of ads I want, and interrupt postings to try to force it. I don’t want any of the dumbass ads on there now, so I just close out and then go back in. I’m constantly trying to decide if it’s worth spending time there, or if it’s such a dumpster fire, I need to leave at the end of the strike. I block probably 50-60 right wing trolls per day right now.

I’m trying to streamline the way I create and post on the various sites, since none of the schedulers (Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.) give me access to all the platforms I need, and I’m not paying for a service that doesn’t let me do what I need to do. I would rather carve out a 4-hour block once a month and schedule all the serial posts, and then be able to connect the blogs to every platform on which I want to share them, but everyone wants exclusivity without giving enough in return.

I suspect I will cut back on more platforms between now and the end of the year. In the summer, I’m going to buy some paid advertising for the serials, and we’ll see what kind of effect that has on sales. If it works and I’ve picked the right platform, that will be my focus. To be rude and blunt, as much as I enjoy hanging out and having conversations, if it’s not also driving traffic and boosting sales, I can’t put my time there. I have to place my time on sites that give me both the social aspect and drive traffic to my sites, leading to increased sales.

I’ll do another post either near the end of the year, or early next year, updating the changes from now through the end of the year.

All of this underlines that your own website as basecamp is more important than ever.

What conclusions have you come to from your social media experimenting?

Landing Pages

image courtesy of Regina Basaran via pixabay.com

The last post talked about the importance of having a website. Today, we’ll talk about your landing page.

Your landing page is vitally important, because it’s the first impression new visitors have when they visit.

You know the term “curb appeal”? Think of your landing page as the internet version of curb appeal.

Landing pages are as varied and unique as those using them.

The template and overall design of the website influences the landing page, and the overall look of your site. Even as the different pages serve different needs, the overall design ties the site together, so every page doesn’t feel like a separate web site.

What does the landing page need to do?

–Welcome new visitors

–Give them a succinct overview of the purpose of your website

–Guide them to other pages or sites connected to your work

–Have pleasing visuals and a good balance of visuals and text

What should a landing page avoid?

–Too much unwieldly text that’s better served on other pages

–Too much information crowded so that there’s no flow or resting space for the eyes

What about pop-ups?

There’s a lot of debate about pop-ups. Many marketing “gurus” swear by them, and far too many landing pages have them.

As a visitor/potential customer, if a pop-up appears before I have time to read the page, demanding my email EVEN IF IT’S FOR A DISCOUNT COUPON, I’m outta there. Not only am I gone, I am unlikely to return.

I hate being slapped in the face by a pop-up as soon as I get onto the site.

I want to read the landing page and DECIDE where I want to go next.

Choosing to join a mailing list is my LAST step on a site, not my first.

All of this “immediate Call-to-Action” when I don’t know anything about your site just turns me off.

Invite, Rather than Attack

To me, a successful landing page is an invitation, not an attack or a demand.

I want the look to resonate with the site’s purpose.

I want succinct information.

I want options for my next steps, not demands.

As an exercise, check out the websites of your favorite authors, restaurants, and stores. What draws you in? What, if they weren’t already a favorite, pushes you away? How can you translate this into the environment you want to create?

I call my own landing pages the “Welcome” page, because that’s the purpose – to welcome visitors to my site and invite them in. I use more text than is usually advisable, and fewer images. But then, I am a writer. I also tend to choose simple templates.

The Pages on Stages landing page is probably the simplest of my sites. That particular template scrolls through several pages on the landing site for mobile users, but the actual landing/welcome is fairly short.

The landing page on this site again, has more text than is advised. The Fearless Ink logo is the graphic at the top of the page, and the Creative Ground logo is at the bottom.

The website for the serial Legerdemain starts with a slide show of the episode-specific graphics, and then has information about the serial.

The flagship Devon Ellington Work website also starts with a slide show of book covers, and, again, text about the work. The sites for the individual series are similar.

All of these sites have more text than is generally advisable, but it works for the purpose of these sites. I like the site menu on the top, and there is information on navigating the site on the landing page.

Ellen Byron has a fun, beautiful site that has her book covers and “Learn More” links that allow the visitor to navigate her site.

Matt Stebbins has a clean, easy to navigate site with an inviting graphic on his landing page, and an invitation to contact him to work together.

Dancer Emma Garrett’s landing page is a photo of her in motion, with an invitation to enter.

Product designer Olivia Truong has a fun, easy to navigate landing page with bright colors and eye-catching graphics.

Painter Sophia Hacquart lets her paintings speak for themselves on the landing page.

Actor and artist Lizzie Markson’s landing page communicates the joy and energy she brings to her work.

(All of these landing pages are much better than mine, by the way, and I celebrate them for it).

Landing pages are introductions and invitations. Take time with yours, and don’t be afraid to change it as you and your work evolve.

How do you create your landing pages? When you visit a site, what do you want to find? What irks you?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Basecamp: Your Website

image courtesy of anurag kaushik  via pixabay.com

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?