31 October 2006

Eerily quiet

I check my website stats daily. It usually generates hits in the double figures every day, even at weekends. But no one visited over the weekend and I had only 1 sole page hit yesterday. One visitor has been today and looked at 2 pages. This is the quietest my website has ever been. Very odd.

I spent most of yesterday editing articles I've commissioned for a magazine. I'm still waiting for the short story to arrive and I have a lot of writing to do for my big feature. I started slogging away on it yestereday afternoon. I'd hoped for an easy ride, having emailed interview questions to my subject across the pond. Most of what came back was web links to other sites so now I'm having to do the research as well. Very slow going. Bah.

27 October 2006

10 things

1. I've run out of stamps but it's raining too hard to go to the Post Office. Luckily I only need to post one letter today and I had one stamp left.

2. My missing client actually answered the phone today and progress on phase 2 of the project is resuming forthwith.

3. I've done a quote for the wine copy job. It won't make a fortune but it will be fun.

4. Someone on a networking forum kindly suggested me as a good person to write a press release. I didn't jump in and offer my services as I really need some time next week to catch up on my journalism commissions. Just as well - when I looked again at the thread a little later, I discovered the person in need works for one of those ghastly companies that writes essays for students. And as you all know, I don't approve of plagiarism.

5. I'm seriously debating resigning from a listserv for journalists I subscribe to - it's getting increasingly tedious on there and I regret adding my opinion to a debate on blogging. I got jumped on because people failed to read my post properly. Pah.

6. I'm also planning not to renew my subscriptions to the local Chamber of Commerce and a regional networking group I joined as they are not value for money.

7. I finally turned on the central heating in my office - it's too cold to sit here now without heat, even with a fleece on. I wish I was still in Crete.

8. I installed Firefox 2 yesterday - it's looking good so far except some of my extensions no longer work. Still better than the appalling IE though... FF2 loads pages faster and is way more secure.

9. The book on polyamory I proofread a few weeks ago is selling well. I enjoyed listening to the author on BBC local radio two days ago - she came across really eloquently and had the strongest arguments of the panel.

10. It's Friday, which means pre-Hallowe'en drinks with my beloved P at a friend's tonight and tomorrow I have a birthday party to look forward to.

26 October 2006

Uni corn

The postie delivered a gem from the local university this morning - I got a letter asking if I'd be willing to offer a work placement to a student. I wish these "work-based learning managers" - as they call themselves - would do their research properly. Then they would have twigged that I'm a sole trader, working from home. I have no liability insurance for students (or even clients) that enter my workplace (aka spare reception room that functions as my office). There's no room in here for a student and I certainly don't have any work going here for them. Unless they want to sit and watch me type all day, interspersed with breaks for coffee, rummages through a dictionary and a spot of surfing. I can't imagine that it would be either exciting or teach them anything.

The boss of said student placement unit lives just a few doors away from me in my street, is a friend and runs a very good local business networking group that I attend. So her staff had no excuse for not checking me out first - a simple phone call would have sufficed, in which I could have told them in less than 30 seconds why I'm not a suitable candidate for their programme.

The writer of the letter also got my job title wrong (editorial manager? Does she think I run a publishing company?) AND my address! Gah.

I'm quite amused that students these days have someone paid to find work placements on their behalf. When I was doing my BA, I had to find my own placement then get my tutor to approve it. Does no one have any initiative any more?

25 October 2006

Easy money

I've just earned a very handsome sum for proofreading a website belonging (sort of) to one of the powers that be. The downside was, it was deadly dull and needed a lot of concentration. But in two days I've earned what I normally earn in a week, so no complaints there. I could do with more jobs like that. So I asked the client - nicely - to consider me for future projects. I'm sure he will - he seems pretty chuffed with me so far.

My missing client has finally resurfaced so I'll be calling him first thing tomorrow so we can pick up the project again. I just haven't had time today. Tomorrow I'll also be working my way through my "to do" list again, which has grown alarmingly over the last week. It's nice to be in demand, but there never seems to be enough time to be all things to all people. I'm hideously aware that my friends are being neglected again, although I did just fire off a quick congratulatory email to a Russian friend living in Paris, who has just dropped her second sprog. I just need some time to pop over for a long weekend, bearing toys...

24 October 2006

Wasting time successfully

I've managed to waste most of the day today, simply by not working very much. After last night's excessively alcoholic birthday celebrations, I woke up at 4.30 feeling dehydrated and restless, head spinning with work-related nonsense. I gave up trying to fall asleep again and got up to brew tea. I surfed the net a bit, played some daft games and answered some emails. At 8am, I decided to shower and start work. Once upstairs, however, the lure of my mattress was too strong to resist and I went back to bed. Up again at 11, I staggered downstairs to discover my sister trying to Skype me so I chatted to her briefly then resolved to work.

Alas, I'd barely put the phone down when it rang again - this time, it was a mate I haven't spoken to in ages, so that was another 2 hours written off. Then I surfed the net again, answered some more emails (trivial ones). Then the phone rang a third time. This call was from a marketing guy who wants to subcontract copywriting work to me, so we had a quick chat, agreed prices and conditions and hung up on each other, both content with the arrangement.

Cue phone call number 4 - an importer who desperately needs his website sorting out. We had a lengthy chat about his business and wine (he imports exclusive wines) and I agreed to price up the work for him. I want this job because it will be really interesting and I might even get to sample the goods, which would be a bonus. That was another hour gone.

By then, it was late afternoon and I still hadn't actually done any work. I really wasn't in the mood by now, it was too late and tomorrow I'm facing a massive catch-up and a tight deadline. I'll make it by the skin of my teeth.

I blame the Armagnac I had before bedtime last night. Proof that excessive alcohol consumption is bad for business...

23 October 2006

Birthday / grindstone

I reached the grand age of 45 today. Never thought I'd get here and still can't quite believe I have. Luckily, I look 10 years younger and am not in need of Botox and bathchair just yet...

My beloved P bought me a laptop and gorgeous green leather bag to keep it in. And books and chocolate and a mini-mouse for the laptop. I also got an olive tree (really!), a large cheque from the parental, more chocolate (are people trying to tell me something?), and masses of bling, amongst other things. Last night we dined at a friend's and were treated to an amazing home-cooked Jamaican meal. Tonight P is taking me to a posh restaurant. Yeah I know the website's crap, but the food definitely isn't.

But enough of my birthday.

I've been hard at it for most of the day, proofreading an immensely complicated website (with no site map) online and noting errors on an Excel spreadsheet. Not a task for the faint-hearted - it requires immense concentration so I don't lose track of where I am on the site. And I've had to test every single link, of which there are many. And of which many are broken. Grr. Still. I'm a third of the way through the 150-odd pages, so I'm likely to beat the deadline.

Work's a drag when I'd rather be out having fun, but needs must when you're a freelance...

19 October 2006

My skive off work

I blagged a disabled discount on my ticket to North Wales by charming the bloke on the counter and explaining it was all the fault of the postal service and saved myself 4 quid. One-nil to me. :)

I arrived at my destination to get showered with early birthday presents. My darling sister had baked me my favourite cake (which I'm not allowed to cut until Monday) and the parental insisted I open her gift there and then (the main pressie is a cheque, but I'll open that on Monday). I guessed it was bling - inside the bag was a show-stopping necklace. I never knew she had such amazing taste and that she could actually pick something I'd love. Usually, I end up giving her presents to Oxfam...

Lunch went ok, better than expected. Especially when the sun came out halfway through, after a hideously rainy morning. I caught the train home in a mellow mood, flicking through a magazine and taking occasional breaks to get the necklace out and admire it.

I got home to the reality of nearly 100 emails - a hazard when you belong to several professional listservs. I was able to delete almost all of it, fortunately. And my lovely graphic designer rang in my absence to let me know he'd made me a banner to put on a couple of websites. I just need to call him back and thank him, then wait for the bill to arrive.

I quite enjoyed my skive, and don't feel the slightest bit guilty, despite just having had a fantastic holiday. I've got masses of work lined up for tomorrow, and the whole of next week will be taken up with the editing job I've just bagged. So my bank manager will be happy anyway.

Cringing at the podcast

Ha! The guy that interviewed me for the podcast mailed me the edited version for my approval. It made me cringe - I thought I sounded like Janet Street-Porter on drugs. But I at least sounded coherent and intelligent and fluent, so that's ok. I played it to my beloved P later - he said I sounded more Estuarine than usual (Estuarine? Me, a Sussex girl?) but explained that's because Skype compresses the voice to squeeze it into the bandwidth and the higher pitches get lost. Result - my voice drops a semi-tone.

It'll be broadcast next week and I get a nice plug on the download page as well, which will hopefully bring in more clients.

I wrote a reply to someone on a networking forum about DIY press releases. I said hire a pro, but if you must do it yourself watch out for the pitfalls. I then scrawled around 500 words on how to do a decent press release. I had some great feedback, including from a contact in marketing, who said he'd been sending press releases for years and my post was the best, most comprehensive and concise summary he'd ever seen. And the site owner reposted it as an article. Pity I won't get paid for it, but hopefully it'll help a few people.

I'm cancelling work today - the parental is the vicinity and I'm obliged to do my filial duty and have lunch. I now face an hour's train ride each way at full fare because the bloody Royal Mail failed to deliver the renewal form for my disabled railcard to the correct address in time and by the time I got it, my previous card had already run out. The new one is only valid from tomorrow. Lunch with the parental will mean the loss of 6 hours' working time - she'd better appreciate my sacrifice because she has yet to grasp that being freelance and working from home does not mean it's not a proper job. I'm only available anyway because my major copywriting project is on hold and I'm filling in with other jobs that allow some flexibility. If I was still working as an employee she wouldn't see me at all.

18 October 2006

Interviews are like buses...

...you wait forever then 3 come along at once.

I've just done my first-ever podcast for an online business networking group I use. Regular readers will know I'm a big fan of networking when it comes to finding clients for the copywriting side of my work.

This particular group also holds real-time meetings, although not in my neck of the woods. Alas, I'm far too far north.

The podcasts are interviews with various members about their businesses and experiences of networking. I got Skyped by the interviewer and chatted for 10 minutes, unprepared, about what I do and how I find clients. Now I'm waiting for the edited version - minus the ums and ahs - to be sent to me for my approval. Then it will be uploaded onto the net. Apparently, the podcast site in question is getting a lot of hits - several thousand downloads a month. I'm new to the podcasting lark - I don't own an MP3 player and don't download music from the net - but I thought I'd give it a go.

I'm still waiting for the 2nd interview to take place - the journo in question is still doing his research so I have to wait for him to get back to me.

I've been busy copywriting a website today connected to the networking group. I myself have been interviewing - staff members, so I can write up their profiles. One was very nervous about talking about himself, the other was a joy to talk to - very funny and self-assured and gave me lots of great soundbites. And I've just won a very lucrative contract as well for a major editorial job, so all in all, it's been a good day.

17 October 2006

Normal life resumes

The holiday is well and truly over. I've caught up with my email backlog and mound of post. And today I got stuck into paid work again. A client I'm copywriting for at present has gone AWOL - mails and calls not being returned. My lovely graphic designer has the same problem. We are stuck. No going forward with the project until the client gets in touch.

In the interim, I've taken on some short fill-in jobs - a bit of web copywriting for a business consultancy, ditto for a web designer. No sense sitting around not earning money while waiting for absent clients.

It's been a time for being centre of attention - two journalists have contacted me in the last few days wanting to interview me about stuff I'm involved with (or was - one of the enquiries goes back 19 years to when I worked on a listings mag in Yorkshire). I was interviewed by Radio 4 about the latter - I must dig out the cassette I made from the broadcast at the time. I'm sure I still have it somewhere.

I thought about blogging for the History Matters project today, but decided not to. It's supposed to be about blogging your most average day. Trouble is, I never have an average day. Today is no exception.

13 October 2006

The Backlash non-blog

Huge apologies!

I was having such a good time on my holiday that I totally forgot to blog for Backlash on Monday 9 October!

I did blog in advance though, so I suppose that counts. I'm just horribly embarrassed that I decided to commit to doing it then didn't.

I've just had a peep at the Backlash blog page though - it's great to see how many people made the effort to air their views. I gather a huge number of people have viewed the Backlash page. I was rather startled to see this blog listed on there as I hadn't notified Backlash, but it does explain the massive peak of hits I had on Monday...

The Tourist of Doom strikes again

Not long after I got together with my beloved P, he nicknamed me the Tourist of Doom. I seem to have a propensity for flying into places and leaving a trail of death and destruction in my wake.

For example:

I flew into San Francisco on 10 September 2001, and the next day the WTC was attacked by terrorists.

I went to Barcelona for a weekend with P in spring 2004 and the Madrid train bombers struck.

I spent a weekend in France, flying in through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in 2004. On the return trip, Terminal 2 collapsed (we were flying out of Terminal 3).

While I was still living in the Netherlands, I went to Amsterdam for a weekend and stayed in a hotel with P. We went out for a walk and on our return to the hotel discovered white crime-scene tape cordoning off the square, cops everywhere, SOCO teams and two dead bodies in an abandoned cab... Turned out there was a local turf war between Bulgarian drug dealers.

These are just a few examples.

Our week in Crete proved no exception - 3 days into our holiday the curse struck again and northern Greece had its worst-ever flash floods.

Honestly, you couldn't make this up! One day countries will pay me NOT to go on holiday.

It looks like Santorini has been spared though. On the last full day of our holiday, we took a boat trip there as it's not far from Crete. The volcano has been dormant for fifty years although it occasionally emits a few puffs of smoke. An eruption is long overdue... All was quiet though and the most dangerous thing that happened was me taking a muleback ride down the cliffs to the caldera - I'm still saddle-sore.

Edited to add: just minutes after our plane took off for home, an earthquake struck off the south coast of Crete...

12 October 2006


Well, the Wordsmith has just returned from a much-needed holiday in Crete. It was good to get away but not without problems. Having decided to take my new laptop so I could catch up on emails while away, it was disappointing to arrive and discover our hotel's wifi was temporarily out of action. I had to resort to standing on my balcony and piggybacking someone else's unsecured wifi to log in.

Typically, things kicked off in my absence - I was offered a very lucrative, but sadly urgent, job proofreading a multimedia project. I had to turn that down, as obviously I wasn't planning on spending my holiday working. That's why it's a holiday, right? Never mind, I'm sure they'll keep me in mind for future jobs. A journalism student also mailed me to ask for an interview about one of my projects - I've agreed to that and will be doing a phone interview tomorrow. And I was pleased to see that some of the features I've commissioned are coming in on time. However, my big-name catch is not ready to commit yet and wants to meet me first (in November!). So it looks like if it comes off, this person will be writing for the spring issue rather than the winter one.

Upon my return, I ploughed through several hundred emails. Most were from lists I subscribe to, but others definitely needed attention. I've worked through most of them. The rest will keep until tomorrow. As will some of the highlights of my holiday...

03 October 2006

Sleepless nights

I'm not sleeping well. I go to bed at a sensible time and have no trouble dropping off but then I wake at stupid o'clock and spend a couple of hours tossing and turning before giving up, getting up and brewing up.

Insomnia is not new to me - it's troubled me on and off for many years. The latest bout is down to stress. I feel like I'm juggling too many balls. Yesterday, one of my clients went AWOL and didn't return my calls or voicemails. So I couldn't get on with the job in hand - very frustrating. I used the downtime to catch up on other stuff - I drafted a proposal cum quote for a client, ticked off a few things on my "to do" list, comforted my best friend when she discovered she's probably lost her job and squeezed in an urgent spot of editing for a Dutch client at short notice.

One thing I no longer have to worry about is the housework. Our new Monsieur Mopp is a real find. He's amazingly efficient and I can work in peace while he's here, knowing I will not be interrupted by needless chitchat.

On the work front, I am booked up until at least the end of this month with copywriting gigs. Probably November too. Ideally, I'd like to cut back on the copywriting but practically I can't as it brings in good money. In a perfect world, I would only edit and write features. Right now, I'm commissioning too which is a bit of a headache. It's been a while since I last did any commissioning for publication and I'd forgotten how stressful it can be - finding the right people to craft the right article, then staying on their back until they hand it over, preferably well before deadline.

At least we have a holiday coming up shortly, which we are both looking forward to. I could do with some sunshine and relaxation. My beloved P is not happy that he will have to work during our break though. So the laptop is travelling with us, but we'll try to keep interruptions to a minimum.