2018: The Baby Year

They say a baby changes everything. Well, I’d say a baby changes most things.

We’re entering the holiday season and that means holiday music. Right now, I’m thinking of Faith Hill’s “A Baby Changes Everything.” Not only because I really enjoyed the film that featured this song (“The Nativity Story”), and not only because I like Faith Hill (pre-2010), but because one month ago I had my own baby boy. And, man, has he changed a LOT of things!

(Sharing this video just because I can. Boo-yah.)

I say “a lot” and not “everything” because, at my core, I’m still the same person. The Jessi who was there pre-baby still exists. I still like to write, illustrate, create. Though my son is pretty much the cutest and most precious thing ever (EVER), I don’t want people to forget me in the midst of cooing and cuddling with my wee little babe.

But my interests have taken a slight re-direction. I want to write, but now my genre lies elsewhere. Things I used to care about matter less (or not at all), and things I hadn’t even considered before matter much, much more.

So in quiet[er] moments, while Luke is napping, I think, “Yeah, my baby has changed a lot, but I still want to write, and I want to write about things I’m passionate about. But what am I passionate about now?”

Well, I’ll tell you what I’m passionate about now: pregnancy, birth, the parental struggle, and the raising of babes in this crazy, hectic, going-too-fast kind of world.

Passions Change. We Don’t.

9b93ee82b6591583d7921026f1ee747a--real-estate-quotes-philosophical-quotesWe are not the things that interest us. Interests are merely tastes, and they change as we grow and adapt to the changes that happen to us over time.

As a kid, even in elementary school, I was mesmerized by the conception and birth process. How could a baby be made… from nothing? Freakin’ magic! I would (shamefully) hide in corners of my school and public libraries flipping through books about childbirth.

This past year, the experience of pregnancy not only engulfed my life but fascinated me on a deep intellectual level. Finally I was justified in researching everything there was to know about it without feeling awkward or guilty. I’d always had this curiosity, sure, but the experience itself literally changed me, mentally and physically.

As an inquisitive person, I discovered certain aspects of pregnancy to be misunderstood and miscommunicated. As a writer, I developed a journalistic photo book concept (with the creative and jestful help of my midwife) that I hope to bring to fruition in 2018.

As a parent, I’ve unexpectedly had to adjust my ways of thinking about the world. My direction and attention as a writer has not gotten less ambitious, the execution of my ambitions has not become less complex, but the projects themselves (at least the end products) have become simpler.

A series of science fiction novels has transformed into a series of children’s books.

A long-winded, autobiographical piece has evolved into the photojournalism book mentioned above.

In short: The simple has become more intriguing. I try now to see my work through the eyes of my little boy so I can connect with him.

And isn’t connection with one another — whether from parent to child, adult to adult, friend to friend, etc — what this life is all about?

And that’s why 2018 will be different. It is the Baby Year, the year that my work’s direction will take a slight detour into the simple, the pure… the baby. ❤

Jessi Woken proud mommy to Luke, as well as the owner and writer of Mountain Owl Ink, LLC.

“Sorry, Not Sorry”: Don’t Apologize For Clients’ Oversights

There’s no doubt that, no matter how upfront you are, at one point or another you’ll end up  with a client who just doesn’t return the favor.

I don’t mean clients who are outright rude, inconsiderate, or cheap. Those types are easy to spot and stay away from (or handle appropriately). I mean those clients who are nice but who communicate in such a way as to leave a little lingering guilt in their wake for whatever and possibly any reason.

They’re like that relative who says they love you as you are but somehow have a way of criticizing you vaguely enough to make you question yourself.

I’ve had the displeasure of working with more than one of these types and, while I’ve never had problems with them paying their invoices (they’re too “nice” not to), I usually have to bite my tongue when emailing or talking with them because they’ve, knowingly or not, insulted me or my work.

This post focused on getting paid what’s rightfully yours. Now, I want to tell you about a type client species called…

The Reluctant Acceptor

The Reluctant Acceptor is the client who will accept the work and pay what you’ve asked, but will leave you feeling like you still did a substandard job and didn’t fully, you know, deserve their money.

But, you know: They’re so nice they’ll pay you anyway. Maybe.


Consider this scenario:

You work on a project that lasts several weeks. Like the responsible freelancer you are, you provide your client regular updates at the end of every week to let them know where the project stands. With this update you include not only a time sheet (that shows when and how long you worked, what you worked on during that time, and how much the invoice has currently racked up to, even though it may not be payable immediately) but also includes a draft of what you’ve so far written.

Look at you, being all professionally transparent! How considerate!

Basically, you’re doing everything you can to let the client know what’s happening and what the current bill looks like.

It’s not up to you to force the client to review these updates. Sure, you HOPE they will, but if they decide not to that’s their choice. Regardless, you’ve made your best effort to keep them informed and move forward with the work, as planned.

Then comes time to submit the final product and the final invoice, which is now due for payment. You send the invoice and shortly thereafter the client emails, shocked that the amount due is so much. On top of that, they’re less than satisfied with the product!

From Anger to Actuality

Receiving an email from a client who hasn’t kept themselves informed and essentially blames you for their shock and dismay can be infuriating. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself screaming profanities — or at least thinking them, if you’re in public — at your computer screen. You’ll wrestle with the temptation to write immediately to explain how their laziness is to blame, not your lack of effort.

My advice? Don’t.

Take a few breaths — or a few hours — and let your anger die down. Responding with emotion isn’t going to get you anywhere (at least not anywhere good). Let that anger dissipate into actuality — when you can bring yourself to rationalize and realize “Hey. This is the situation. I made every effort to keep them up-to-date. It’s not my fault and if the client’s going to be upset about it, they’ll have to deal with that” — and then respond to their email with your usual professionalism.

Don’t let the client’s business immaturity infect your work. You’ve been responsible and mature up until this point and there’s no reason to let yourself slip now. Reacting out of emotion can land you in professional hot water, risking not only having the client refuse to pay the invoice but also risking them mouthing off about your sub-par work, high prices, and bad attitude to everyone they know.


First impressions are great, but its really the final impressions that stick.

Invoice aside, there’s a chance this client also insults the work you’ve done. (This is especially infuriating if they’re a repeat client who knew what kind of work you produce in the first place.) Obviously they could have guided you in the right direction or called it quits early on, but that would have depended on them doing their part. That is, reviewing the updates you offered in the first place.

Again, it’s the client’s laziness at fault, not your lack of effort.

Reluctant Acceptors use guilt throwing as a way to get out of paying for something they know they should rightfully pay for, like your time and hard work. They make weak excuses and quietly whine to get you to back down, to admit this is your fault… to get them out of their own jam.

But, you know what? It’s NOT. YOUR. FAULT.

You did your part. You sent the updates. Remained available for correction or redirection. Responded promptly to their concerns and questions. Made what you were doing and how you were doing it very, very clear. Short of finding them in person and shoving a printed copy of your work in their face for them to review while you stood over them like a vulture, there was nothing more you could or should have done to keep them updated on their own project.

The big takeaway here?

Never apologize for your clients’ oversights.

Some client complaints ought to be recognized for what they are: guilty admissions of their own oversight and laziness!

In my experience, these clients easily give in and pay their bill after a single firm and professional email from you stating, if anything else, that you’re sorry they are dissatisfied with the product/invoice but that you gave them ample opportunity and time to address those issues from the beginning onward.


“You think this is MY fault? LoL!”

(NOTE: Be careful how you respond. Being empathetic about the client’s feelings — however misdirected they are — is not the same as saying you’re sorry you’re billing them or that you’re ashamed of the work you’ve done. For those two things you should not be sorry! If you are, you need to seriously reassess your rates and/or your craft.)

You’re not a crisis negotiator or a counselor. You’re a writer. Don’t beg them to pay or change their mind. Don’t ask for an explanation of why they feel the way they do. Don’t try to amend their emotions.

Now is the time for them to grow up and pay up, not discuss the terms of the project or the amount being charged. Those things should have been settled before the project was completed (ideally, before the project was even started).

At the end of the day, you deserve to be paid. If the client wants to argue, refer to the project contract for the verbiage on client updates and payment protocol.

And, by all means, hold the final product “hostage” until you are paid and you can officially close the project. Seriously. If this isn’t part of your contract, it should be. As part of weekly client updates, I don’t offer clean and editable .doc files, nor do I send PDFs that don’t have glaringly obvious and annoying watermarks plastered all over them (because a plain PDF can be uploaded to Kindle and — voila! Ebook!).

In short: Until the client pays you IN FULL, the work you do on their project ISN’T THEIRS, it’s YOURS. To say otherwise is like saying the burrito the guy at Chipotle built to your specs is yours, even if you haven’t paid for it at the register. (Mmm… burritos…)

Once you’re paid, submit to them editable .doc/.docx files, PDFs, unlocked image files, or whatever else they need to do what they want to do. But never beforehand.

Closing statement: Don’t be sorry! And never apologize for your clients’ oversights.

Jessi Woken is owner/operator at Mountain Owl Ink LLC. Read more about her and her company at www.MountainOwlInk.com.

Asking For Money: Why We’re Afraid To Do It and Why We Shouldn’t Be!

A contact of mine — let’s call her Nancy — mentioned something that happened to her:

A freelancer she’d hired with whom she’d become friends with during the course of a project started sending vague ‘What’s up’ texts.

“It wouldn’t have been awkward,” Nancy said, “if they actually had something to say or share, but it was just text-y small talk. You know, ‘What’re you doing?’ and ‘How’s things?’ We don’t small talk in person. Why would we small talk on text?”

Even though emotions are notoriously difficult to decipher in texts, “I knew something was up. I could just feel it.”

Turns out, she was right.

As a result of some recent life drama she’d completely forgotten to issue payment on the freelancer’s latest invoice. She knew she was the one to blame for the slip and apologized, saying she’d pay them right away — “I was mortified. How could I forget to pay them?” — but the freelancer was also apologetic… for bringing up the subject in the first place!

“That struck me as weird,” Nancy said.

And, I agreed: It is weird. But also, sadly common.

Why Are We Afraid To Ask For OUR Money?

Can you imagine your telephone company apologizing for asking you to pay your bill? Of course not! They’ve provided a service with the expectation that they’ll given money that is, in a way, already theirs.

So why are so many freelancers shy about asking to be paid? Just off the top of my head, maybe they’re worried they…

  • #1: Won’t receive future work from that particular client if they nag for payment.
  • #2: Will be told their work isn’t any good and that’s why they’re not being paid.
  • #3: Have a client who never actually intended to pay.

There may be others, but these three particular fears stand out. However, when broken down, they’re actually pretty pointless. Here’s why.

Worry #1: Fear of No Future Work

Has it ever happened that a client will not offer more work if you nag for payment? YES. However, the keyword here is “nag.”

There is a critical difference between professionally asking for payment (even professionally demanding payment) and nagging about it. The latter involves whining, complaining, pleading, insulting the client, and other annoying dialogue that will only manage to get you blacklisted and not respected (or paid).

If you’re sure you’re being professional and the client is still playing hard to get, consider this:

Do you want the kind of client you have to wrestle money out of at the end of every project? If your answer is “no” (and it should be!), then just get payment ASAP for what you’ve already done and let them go their merry way.

Then there’s this: If your fear of not getting rehired is getting in the way of you asking for payment, then freelancing simply isn’t for you. Sorry, guy.

But, if you’re willing to bravely face the “Pay me” discussion, there are

Ways To Reduce Your Anxiety Over Getting Paid

  • Write a Contract and include an arbitration clause.
  • Write a Contract and include terms for an upfront deposit.
  • Write a Contract and set terms for payment at project milestones, like:
    • Setting up an escrow account in a money handling service like PayPal, or
    • Directly arranging the work through a site like Upwork, where escrow is already a fixture in the system.

I mention WRITE A CONTRACT multiple times because doing business without a contract is just asking for trouble. Contracts are Freelancing 101 and, if you don’t have one handy to present to clients at the start of every job, I strongly encourage you to draft one now.


Incorporating details like an arbitration clause, upfront deposit terms, or payment deadline terms can help payments stay on track and on time and leave your worries to more critical matters… like just doing a good job on the project!

Worry #2: “Your work isn’t worth it.”

Let’s consider what “freelancing” means in the first place.

By definition, a freelancer is “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.”

No commitment to any one employer? It sounds so… freeing, doesn’t it? ::wink:wink:: But that also means that the employer (or client) also has no commitment to YOU other than those terms they’ve agreed on and are legally held to (you know, via your contract).

There are two good reasons to nix this worry in the bud.

First, if payment is dependent on TIME (i.e. $/hour), you should get paid for work done even if the client doesn’t like the end result. This is part of the hourly arrangement: pay is largely independent of product (unless, of course, the product is grossly disastrous, in which case you should let the client keep their money).

Flat fee arrangements are tougher to negotiate, as they more strongly imply a product-dependent payment system (“I’ll pay you for 5 hours spent writing XYZ” vs “I’ll pay you $100 for an article on XYZ.”).

Either way, consider including one or both of the following in your contract(s):

A. Require an upfront deposit (e.g. 30% or 50% of the full fee, or the equivalent of 5 hours of work) before you even begin. This encourages the client to feel vested in you and the project and offers them the opportunity to show they’re serious about holding to their end of the bargain.

B. Use an Escrow service. Arrange escrow through PayPal or set up the job through a writing brokerage, like Guru, Upwork, or Servicescape (though, beware: ServiceScape demands a steep 50% commission!).

The main trouble with using a writing brokerage is that if the client hasn’t used it before they’ll have to set up an account and learn how to use a new platform, which they may not be eager or willing to do. In this way, PayPal is easier because the client doesn’t need an account to deposit funds into a PayPal escrow.

Finally, let’s say the client really did intend to pay you and they are dedicated to the project. What gives? Well, it’s time to ask yourself a hard question:

Is your work worth paying for, or not?

Either you produce a good product or you don’t. Unless the client can point out glaringly obvious reasons why they shouldn’t pay you (e.g. outlandish editing mistakes, blatant spelling errors, or an article that’s off-topic) clients may use the excuse “I don’t like it” to see if you’ll let them off the hook.

Why would they want to get off the hook? Two reasons come to mind:

  1. They changed their mind about the project. Maybe jumped the gun and hired you before thinking it through, or didn’t realize that a writing project is actually a lot of work (for them, lots of reviewing and approving your work). Or…
  2. They didn’t realize how much it would cost and are facing sticker shock. (See “Hard Truth #3” HERE.)

Don’t give in: Neither of these excuses are your fault and you still deserve your money! Be firm about receiving payment, about the amount due, and about your end product, especially if the client had many chances to cancel the job or make changes along the way that would have alleviated the above two problems.

Worry #3: The client never intended to pay.

Unfortunately, this does happen. And it doesn’t feel good because you realize you’ve basically been scammed. In fact, one of my first clients hired me to write a few product descriptions for $10 apiece. After I submitted the work, they fell off the map.


Look, some people will do this. Why? Because some people are jerks. And even with safeties in place to protect yourself, something as small as $100 due won’t get you much attention in small claims court or be worth the trouble of hiring an arbitrator. In my case, I wrote it off as a learning experience and a monetary loss on my taxes.


At the end of the day, a solid contract with clear terms and expectations from both parties will help alleviate anxiety over all aspects of payment, from initial deposit to milestone payments to final invoice.

Other than that, all you need to do is provide a product worth paying for.

Have you had any experiences with non-payment? Share your stories — and solutions — in the comments.


5-Minute, 4-Ingredient Blueberry Syrup

Every once in a while I stray from writing about business and write up something a little more fun, a little more educational, a little more… tasty.

Last time, I shared a morel soup recipe from pickings on our property. Mmm. Morels…

This time, I’m going to show you how to whip up blueberry syrup in about five minutes using a microwave.

Let’s start with ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 TB water
  • 1 TB natural sweetener (e.g. agave syrup, honey, maple syrup)
  • 1TB water + 1/4 TB cornstarch

That’s it. (NOTE: This recipe makes enough for a single[ish] serving, so adjust accordingly to feed more hungry mouths.)

Start with berries & water.

step one_berriesSummertime is berry time, so I try to stock up and eat as many as I can before the season is over. Berries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and, ultimately, deliciousness. Unfortunately, as any berry fan knows, these little delights don’t keep for long.

The wonderful thing about blueberries is they freeze exceptionally well. I just bought a big tub of of them at Sam’s Club last week and, knowing I wouldn’t get to them anytime soon, popped the whole thing in my freezer immediately. Now when I want some, I pull out the container, grab a handful, give ’em a quick wash in a colander (because freezing doesn’t kill food-borne bacteria), and dump them where I please: on vanilla ice cream, in a bowl of cereal, in a batch of muffins or other recipe, etc.

1. Straight into a microwave-safe measuring cup go 1/2 cup of frozen blues. But, before you get too excited about adding sweetener, we’ve got to zap these babies so they soften and warm.



Berries are warm, popped, and ready for the next step.

2. Add 1 TB water to the berries and pop the whole thing in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between sessions, until the berries are soft, warm, and most of them are popped open.


For me, it only took three 30-second rounds to get my berries to the right consistency.

Add a little sweet to your blues.

While this is a great motto for how to improve a bad day, it really is just the next step in our syrup-making process.

Today I used agave syrup, but I would have used raw honey had I any in stock. You can also opt for maple syrup, brown sugar, or even (*gasp*) refined white sugar. There’s really just one rule here: add something sweet that’s liquid or will dissolve in liquid.

(Also, don’t get crazy. Blueberries already have natural sweetness, but their characteristic tart after-bite doesn’t do much for my taste buds when I’m trying to enjoy my meal. You only need a bit of sweetener to offset that tartness, so better to add not enough at this point than too much.)

3. Add 1 TB sweetener to the berry mash, stir, and microwave again for 30 seconds. When the mixture comes out of the microwave, it should be slightly bubbly (see photo). That means the sugar and fruit have cooked… and you’re halfway to delicious syrup!

Thick it. Thick it good.

After cooking the sweetener with the berries, the whole thing will be a hot, watery mess (kinda like one of your girlfriends when she’s crying over her ex). It’ll smell good, sure, but it’s in no way ready for the real world.


Berries, check. Cornstarch, check.

Get it together, gurl.

In regular syrup making, you’d probably end up boiling the concoction until all the water evaporated off.

But, right now, my belly is hungry. And, boiling? Seriously?

Guuuuurl, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Enter: Cornstarch.

4. Create thickening solution — 1 TB cold water + 1/4 TB cornstarch — and pour it in the berry mixture. Stir thoroughly.

You should start to see some thickening happen, but don’t get jumpy with the cornstarch: The mix won’t achieve a true syrup-y consistency until it cools off, so give the container a little cold water bath to help things along.

5. In a larger mixing cup, fill about 1/3 with cold water. Nest the cup with the berries in the water and let it sit, stirring occasionally. You may even want to replace the cold water a time or two, as it’ll warm with the transference of heat from your delicious syrup.


Nesting: Not just for birds and pregnant women.

Once things cool off, you’ll notice the syrup thickening to it’s proper consistency.


(If you don’t, give it a little more time or, if you really can’t wait, chuck the whole thing and just eat your pancakes with jam smeared on them.)

Congratulations! You made blueberry syrup in five minutes!

Your friends will be crazy jealous of your sweet (literally sweet) skillz.

Since this is a single serving recipe, I assume you’ll be dumping your delicious creation all over something immediately edible. But, if you just wanted to test my recipe and it turns out that it really is as awesome as I say it is, you can save the syrup in the fridge for later use.

You’re welcome.

Now, what did I do with mine? I drizzled it all over a watermelon “pancake,” which really isn’t any kind of proper cake at all (drat) but a circular slice of watermelon that covered my entire plate. Then I sprinkled some granola on top, just to make myself feel better.


Disclaimer: Not a real pancake.

I would have eaten a real pancake, but I’m 8+ months preggo and I’m trying to cut down on my carb intake, which, sadly, was tragically high yesterday. (It was a never-change-out-of-my-pajamas-all-day kind of #Monday.) Seriously. My breakfast yesterday was toast with butter and jam and a package of cherry Pop Tarts.


Yep. Healthy.

I know you can hardly tell it’s fruit under there from a picture, but it really is. I promise. And it really was tasty (even considering the bland, end-of-season watermelon I got from the grocery store).

Could I have eaten the watermelon by itself? Sure, but then I wouldn’t have gotten creative in the kitchen today to share this little berry syrup recipe with you!


Jessi is the owner of Mountain Owl Ink LLC, a creative services company located in Minnesota that offers writing, illustration, and editing services to people who ask (and pay). 😉


Writing a Super Proposal: Getting a Foothold in the Freelancer Bidding Wars

Okay, so it’s not really a war. Freelance writers are all part of the same occupational family, each of us offering a different creative version of the same service. We partake in forums where we help one another do the best we can do; we all go (or want to go) to the classes and conferences that help us define and refine our craft.

Even so, families have their rivalries.

For freelancers, that rivalry takes place on the bidding field.

But, before I get into how to write a great proposal, there are four things about the freelance writing market you should keep in mind…

moron-gifHARD TRUTH #1: Even bad proposals get selected sometimes.

After all, many people looking to hire a freelance writer readily admit they don’t know how to write — like, at ALL — so chances are that eventually one of them will also not recognize what reads well. That person will probably choose a proposal that exhibits a feature they do recognize, like price, turnaround time, flexibility, responsiveness to messages, et cetera.

Or, heck, maybe they just close their eyes and point to their computer screen in order to randomly select a name from an applicant list (#itcouldhappen).

So if you think you’ve been getting jobs simply because your proposal writing skills are great… well, that doesn’t always jive. Think of your proposals as your advertisements, mind you they’re directed toward an individual person and not a broad audience. Just like there are a lot of good companies out there that run crappy ads and still stay in business, so can a good writer put out bad proposals and still find work. And maybe that works for you, but… what if you could get better work by running better ads? If that sounds like something you’d like to get in on, keep reading.

meh lady

“Meh. Don’t care.”

HARD TRUTH #2: Clients may not care about your perfectly written proposal. At all.

This is a truth that really sucks because really great proposals take a lot of time to craft. And since time is money, it hurts when you don’t get a return on your investment.

Still, the fact is that there are some clients who don’t care about what a proposal contains or how it reads. They may not be the type of clients who are oblivious to what a good writer’s writing looks like (see Hard Truth #1) — in reality, they may know exactly what good writing looks like — but these folks actively DON’T CARE about your skills. Period.

Instead, they’re focused on other aspects of your candidacy. Things like:

  • your rate
  • project turnaround time
  • availability (i.e. “Do you work weekends/nights/holidays?”)
  • alternative skill sets (in case they want to hire you to do more than one thing at a time, like both write and illustrate, or both write and manage their company’s blog)
  • proximity (I’ve had clients who’ve hired me just for being nearby because they prefer to meet in person rather than discuss the job over email or phone)
  • how you want to get paid (e.g. fixed rate or hourly? in increments or in a lump sum at the end of the job? with or without escrow protection*?)

It’s our best guess as to which of these — if any — drive the potential client to select their ideal candidate. So while you may think the client wants to hear about your five award-winning novellas, they may only care if you can meet with them regularly on Sunday evenings to discuss the project.

Oh, and if you take checks.


“I feel like this is getting complicated. I’d just rather not.”

HARD TRUTH #3: The client’s commitment to the project may be… fickle.

I’ve had this happen many a time:

A potential client will reach out either on a jobs board, privately via email, or in person (if we happen to be crossing paths and talking about our work at the same time). They’re excited about their project. They have this great idea and they can’t wait to get started and ‘Do you think you could do it!?’ they exclaim.

‘Sure,’ you say. So you listen to their idea and draft a quick bid (even if only mentally) for the work you think you’ll have to do. Then you proceed to discuss everything concerning their project: outlines, time tables, budgets, contracts… you know, all that boring, business-like, non-writing stuff.

As you talk, the wind gets blown out of their sails. Suddenly this sounds like work; it’s not as fun anymore. Suddenly it occurs to them that they’re entering into a financial agreement (via contract*) and might have to — gulp! — pay you!

Once you show them the cost estimates, their eyes gloss over. You’ve officially lost them.

‘That’s a lot of money,’ they say aloud (or write) (or think) (or say via body language).

‘Well, writing is hard work,’ you say (or write back) (or think) (or say via body language).

Their interest deflated, they offer up an “I’ll get back to you about it” but never do. Should you have pushed the sale harder? Should you have fluffed your writerly feathers and wowed them with more amazing stats about your #skillz?

Maybe. But if it was either of the following two realizations that turned them off from their own project, there was really little you could do to get them to commit:

  1. They wanted their project to be fun and games, not work and business.
  2. They don’t want to pay you what you actually charge.

If the client wants you to work for free or to do it for “exposure” or “experience,” they can ask their Auntie Ava to write their memoir (unless she’s a freelancer, too, then I hope Auntie Ava charges a fair rate!).

HARD TRUTH #4: Even GREAT proposals don’t get selected.

Yours could be one great proposal among many. Or for another reason altogether your awesome proposal may not have been selected.

Sometimes, we just gotta chalk it up to “Not meant to be” and “Better luck next time. Because, let’s face it: Sometimes it really is about luck.


Though it’s frustrating to admit, we always can’t tell what, exactly, the client is looking for or how seriously they’re looking. But as freelancing spirits we’re not so easily deterred, so trudge ahead and do our best we must, despite detours, disappointments, and hurdles!

That said, here are my

strong man

Tips on Writing a Super Proposal

timeclock clipart1. Take the time to know the job.

Seems basic, but sometimes out of desperation (or as part of their self-marketing strategy) freelancers will go for quantity over quality. Hey, I can’t say mass submissions never works, but they can be mentally draining without being financially rewarding.

Also, refusing to take the time to see what a job requires could put you in the hot seat in the event that you do (somehow, magically) score the contract. What if you find you can’t do the work and have to decline the job after you’ve been awarded it? Or, worse, find yourself mid-project and realize you can’t finish the work? That’s just embarrassing and a hard hit to your professional portfolio, especially on sites like Upwork where the client has the opportunity to leave a negative review on your profile.

2. Customize your cover letter.

While you may be able to get away with using certain aspects of a previously submitted proposal for a different job, don’t copy and paste your way into the freelancing game.

Potential clients can see right through this tactic and, unless they’re looking for one of those alternative aspects mentioned previously, submitting an impersonalized cover letter will only cause them to think (a) you’re too lazy to read the actual job description, (b) you’re too lazy to do the actual work of writing a good response, or (c) you don’t really care about the job (see ‘a’).

Either way, you don’t come out looking good and, like a resume cover letter that isn’t tailored to the employer’s needs, your proposal will likely get swiftly tossed in the round file.

think money3. Make clear your rates.

Take the extra time to be clear about how and why you’re charging what you do, especially if the job description expresses client concerns about rates. If you’re interested in the job but your price is higher than the client’s initial budget, it’s okay to still apply and offer up a solid explanation as to why your rate is higher than they might like and why it’s worth it.

This is a great opportunity to sell your skills as well as show you’re a professional who understands value. If you feel you need to, refer to the Writer’s Market’s “How Much Should I Charge?” report. It’s a little outdated, but certainly a usable reference when discussing various writing fees.

Just remember: You’re not defending your rates, you’re just explaining them. And don’t patronize the client when you clarify your rates, either. Nobody likes a smarty pants who makes other people feel stupid.

4. Offer appropriate samples.

Like your cover letter, get into the habit of being selective about which writing samples you share with a prospective client. If the job is for nonfiction work, share nonfiction samples. If it’s for blogging, share blogs you’ve written.

Offering samples of unrelated work is a great way to show you’re NOT paying attention. For instance, if you’re applying for an adult romance fiction writing gig, don’t share the latest nonfiction elementary school inspirational picture book you wrote (and/or illustrated).

A special note: If you’re often hired as a ghostwriter, be sure to obtain the permission of past clients before sharing their work as part of later bids. You can easily do this by giving clients the option of declaring permissions at the start of the project, as part of your written contract. Then you can simply refer back to the contract later on to see if you have received permission to share the work or not.


5. You’re a writer, so write well. (Always!)

Another seemingly obvious one, I see a lot of comments on freelancing forums from self-proclaimed writers who don’t take the time to type out complete sentences or use proper grammar or punctuation.

If you can’t offer me paragraph separation in your 250-word rant about low-paying work, it’s no wonder nobody is taking you seriously!

Learn to interact in every way (every day!) the way you want to be seen as a professional. Make good writing a personality trait, not just a profession. Whether it’s in your texts or emails, in private forums or in proposals, make it a habit to show your best abilities (and not only in writing, but in attitude as well!). Do that, and people will begin to remember you for those things.

Likewise, habitually communicating with bad writing will cause people to habitually remember that about you… even if, in your work, you’re a very clean-cut writer, nobody will know it!

6. Be confident, not cocky.

People don’t have time to wrestle with your ego and, trust me, it won’t do you any favors either. Confidence is professional and magnetic, but cockiness will just turn potential clients off from liking you as a person which, in today’s workforce, is critical.

When writing your proposal, describe relevant accomplishments and abilities without embellishing them.

For example, instead of writing, “I’m an amazing historical novelist with several award-winning publications under my belt,” and inserting a link to your author website, opt for the more relaxed and low-key, “I am a published author of three successful historic novels” and allow the client space to ask for further information if they’re intrigued.

(Never interject irrelevant information or brags into your proposal. #TMI!)

Learn to be likable and you’ll experience a more successful freelancing career. Likability involves traits like honesty, positivity, and the ability to build and maintain good co-working relationships.

And just because you’re freelance doesn’t mean you work alone! The saying “No man is an island” applies here, and you need to learn to [quickly!] develop positive working relationships with clients in order to gain their trust, respect, and, ultimately, their business.

shaking-hands7. Say “Thank you.”

Your mother was right: Kindness pays.

Sometimes it might just take a little acknowledgement to put your proposal over the top. End your proposal letter with a quick “thank you” to the client for taking their time to read what you’ve had to say. Finish with a closing — “Sincerely,” “With Kind Regards,” et cetera — and type out your name, just as if you were signing a real letter.

Where other proposals may end in terse business lingo (bor-ing), your offer’s clean finish may be all the client’s palette needed to initiate a conversation with you instead of your competitors.


As long as you digest the four aforementioned hard facts of freelancing — and can equally learn to not take every rejection or non-response as a personal insult (though some clearly are) — you’ll be able to dedicate yourself to writing the best possible proposals in a way that best expresses and sells your skills and abilities.


Have additional tips for fellow freelancers about writing proposals? Share them in the comments!

*Like those who refuse to sign contracts, be wary of clients who don’t want to put money into an escrow account, especially if it’s a large project and an escrow service is readily provided (like on Upwork). The client may be trying to swindle you into working for free. This has happened to me before, and being duped is not a good feeling to either your ego or your wallet.


Review Reads & Pretty Paperbacks: 3 Reasons to Have Your Manuscript Reviewed (Before Publishing*)

Last fall I was presented with the opportunity to review a book written by an indie author in Tennessee named Kayla Lowe.

We connected on LinkedIn. I was a LinkedIn suggestion, nonetheless, when Kayla was new to the platform. Unlike many other “connections,” the connection with Kayla immediately turned out beneficial for the both of us, though I think I got the better end of the deal. Kayla got her book reviewed and I got, well… to read a good story, make a new writer-friend, get some business promo, and most recently received a free signed copy of Maiden’s Blush! Score!

Reviews are important in the book business - just ask Kayla Lowe!

Holding my (signed!) copy of “Maiden’s Blush” by Kayla Lowe.

Kayla Lowe writes Christian fiction and poetry. She’s recently been releasing some of her poetry as memes on her blog, some of which may even pull this anti-poetry editor into the magic of prose poetry.

But, back to the book review…

Reading the original version of Maiden’s Blush was less work and more a pleasure. True to form — what with her various recognitions for her talent as a writer — Lowe’s story was complete from start to finish and her writing was easy to peruse, a small blessing an editor doesn’t commonly get to enjoy.

There were only a few problems I caught onto when reading the book, and those were passed to Lowe in a head-to-toe Mountain Owl Ink manuscript review that involves notations on…

  • dialogue,
  • setting,
  • character development,
  • tone,
  • believability,

…and more. Of those issues, a number of them were writing habits I see commonly in others’ works. Little things like overuse/preference of certain words and phrases, pronoun ambiguity, and character trait vagueness are common issues that writers often don’t see in their own work but can present as problems for readers.

Which leads to my reasons for

3 Reasons To Get Your Manuscript Reviewed* (Before Publishing)

Reason #1: Self-Blindness

Self-blindness is the concept of being blind to what we do wrong. Sometimes our errors are pretty obvious (thanks, Spellcheck), but from time to time we can all use a second pair of eyes — not only in writing, but in life — to help keep us on the straight and narrow.

Nobody is immune to self-blindness, not even the most diligent writer or and editor (yes, including me!). That’s why I always say that “even editors need editors.”

Writing errors common in self-blindness include…

  • the overuse of “that”
  • comma overuse (or under-use)
  • pronoun ambiguity
  • setting confusion
  • vague transition(s) between action, speaker, point of view, and/or setting

The only way we can learn to recognize our bad (and good!) writing habits — and learn from them — is by having the help of other people pointing them out to us. Remember…


#2: Avoid the “Whoops!” Re-Release

While there are a number of good reasons to do a re-release of a book, you don’t want to feel compelled to do so in order to fix (um… hide) writing mistakes!

Other than being an expensive and time-consuming way to fix mistakes,

In Lowe’s case, her re-release of Maiden’s Blush also included the integration of a brand new, simplified cover. Other good reasons to re-release, other than integrating a new cover:

Lowe_old cover

The first edition cover of Maiden’s Blush.

  • Addition of a new chapter (e.g. a different ending that leads into a sequel);
  • Addition of artwork within the book itself (e.g. illustrations);
  • As part of a promotion for another product (e.g. with the release of a sequel);
  • Changing author’s legal name to a pseudonym; or
  • Addition of an introduction penned by a guest writer.

One reason an author may not opt to have their manuscript reviewed prior to publication* is the cost. It can cost $200+ to have a manuscript reviewed by an editor

However, get creative and you may be able to get a review done on your manuscript for free (or close to it). For instance, see if you can strike up a bartered deal, as in the case of Mountain Owl’s review of Maiden’s Blush. Our simple barter involved me doing the review in exchange for a little promotion on the new review service I was offering. Win-win!

#3: Don’t turn off new readers.

Especially if you’re an indie or self-publishing author, you don’t want to run the risk of deterring new readers before you’ve even begun building an audience.

Readers are critical folk. They like pointing out (sometimes cruelly) errors and problems they see in books they read. They tell their friends, their Facebook pages, the bookstore clerks, Amazon reviews… And a bad review can hurt sales of that particular title as well as your future releases.

Start your audience off on the right foot with a well-written, strong, positively reviewed book to gain their respect, loyalty, and future business.

And that’s today’s #HappyWriting advice about #seeingfarther.

Have a manuscript that could use reviewing or questions about the review process? Send me a message at Jessi [at] MountainOwlInk [dot] com.


*Ideally, manuscripts should be reviewed prior to publication so as to prevent putting sub-par writing out into the world to be read (or, in the case of bad writing that gets published, not read).


A Fair (Fare?) Working Relationship

I happened upon this ad yesterday as I scrolled down my Upwork screen looking for jobs to bid on:

Ad for Children's Book Illustrator

An ad pulled from freelancer site Upwork.com.

When I first saw this ad I laughed. The problem isn’t with the wording, or the need, but with the advertiser’s expectation. Just take a look: They’re wanting an expert to draw likely 10+ illustrations (probably in full color) for $125, total. Really? That comes to $12.50 per illustration, maximum.

Fees and the question “What to charge?” has been on my mind lately. Not because I don’t know what to charge (I now have a fair set of rates that I go by regularly), but because I run into the problem so often of potential clients feeling like a writer’s (or, in this case, an illustrator’s) time is worth a dime on the dollar.

I don’t know what it takes for other illustrators to do their work, but I know when I’m drawing a full page for a client each image can take from half to a full day to complete. At a half day (4 hours), that comes to $3.13/hr; a full day, $1.56/hr. Unless they’re ten and doing chores for candy money, nobody in their right mind would work for such low wages.

Most don’t realize an illustrator isn’t just mindlessly sketching in some notebook. There’s a lot of thought, drafting, finalizing, and coloring to do, and this doesn’t count the back-and-forth communication with the client about the layout, characters, color choice, et cetera before pencil even touches paper.

In short, a hobbyist or novice will sketch out something for $12.50 per illustration while riding the bus to his day job. An expert, on the other hand, will charge $125 per illustration.

The unfairness starts with YOU.


Ads like this — of which there are many — tell me there is a big reality gap between what a client thinks we do and what actually happens. And this doesn’t just apply to rates, but also to time schedules: Clients will be willing to dish out a fair sum of cash but their expectations about how long it’ll take to complete the work are far off course.


The above is a funny rendition of the gap between outside perspective and what actually takes place at the illustrator’s desk. Illustrator’s certainly don’t work for free, draw all their business-owning friends (free) logos, or doodle all day like Kindergartners. (Some of us do, though, get our sleep. I happen to take sleeping very seriously.)

Entering into business with someone who doesn’t understand what a freelancer puts into their work is like going into a one-sided relationship: Person A makes good effort to spend time together and Person B sits around twiddling their thumbs while also complaining that Person A never hangs out anymore.

Annoying? Yes. Unfair? Absolutely. Toxic? You bet.

Luckily, as of late last year I’ve purged myself of toxic clients, guilt-free. And I do mean “luckily,” because I know a lot of freelancers don’t enjoy that freedom. Why? I think a lot of it has to do with perspective about what good clients give. That is,

It starts with the writer’s expectation about what they can get. If that’s skewed, everything goes downhill from there.

If you think you’re not worth more than a few dollars an hour, you’ll only get paid a few dollars an hour. A lot of the freelancing game is about mentality, so build and maintain your mental strength when conducting business.

It’s about setting your market value. I’m not going to repeat the overdone freelancer’s chant, “We need to stop taking such low pay!” because it’s a cop out. Saying “we” takes the pressure off of ourselves and puts the obligation out there, into the wide, empty nothing, for some unknown entity to take hold of. Taking low pay is now the world’s problem, and who can fix the whole world? Nobody.

But stop passing the buck! YOU are the only entity you should be fixing!

Instead of chanting to the proverbial “we,” take charge of your situation. Stop worrying about everyone else’s earnings and the general freelancing market value (i.e. what freelancers overall are willing to accept as common expectations and wages) and start focusing on your freelancing value.

I’m not saying that since I’ve altered my expectations and self-valuation I get the “best paying freelance jobs” out there. (I put that in quotes because I’m sure you’ve typed that into Google more than once as a freelancer, just as I have!)

But I am saying that my earnings per project are better than what they used to be, and certainly better than what potential clients advertise, like the one looking for an expert illustrator at $12.50 an illustration. Pfft.

To improve your own situation starts with just three easy steps, which are more like new mentalities you need to adopt and apply. (Sorry — no easy 1-2-3 checklists here!) Here’s MOI’s strategy for…

How to Get Paid a Fair Fare

1. Don’t get into an unfair relationship in the first place.

Just because its business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking out for your own — present and future — well-being.

Think of starting and developing a working relationship with a client like you would a relationship with anyone else. Your business relations should be fair, understanding, open, and respectful. That means the client should respect your time and effort by paying you a fair rate, and you should respect the client’s money (and time) by doing your best job and staying on schedule.

2. If you’re already in an unfair relationship, adjust it.

Whether that means renegotiating your rates, deadlines, or availability, do it and do it NOW.

And don’t forget to do it via a contract, on paper. (Don’t have a contract to begin with? Yikes… doing work under contract is respect rule #1!) Make the new terms clear and concise, and make available a way for either party to back out of the deal at any time. One of you isn’t indentured to the other (or if you are per the terms of a contract you signed, you shouldn’t have agreed to that in the first place!).

Remember: You’re working with, not for, the other person. You’re a freelancer, not an employee! So take the “free” in “freelancer” seriously.

3. If the other party won’t adjust, dump them.

If the other person doesn’t want to change terms — or doesn’t even want to see or admit that they are doing you wrong — then it’s high time to say goodbye. It’ll hurt, but in the long run you’ll be better off. (Don’t worry about them: They’ll undoubtedly find someone else to fill your shoes at $3/hr. That’s not your concern.)

If your clients don’t respect you, you shouldn’t want those clients. Period. So let them go.


Bad clients. Just let them go.

Keep to this strategy and eventually you’ll have clients, old and new, who value your talent, time, and who will pay you a fair fare.

Mountain Owl Ink LLC is a freelance creative services company located in Minnesota, USA, that has been providing writing, illustration, and design services since 2013. For more information, visit www.MountainOwlInk.com.


Waiting For Work: 4 Suggestions to Finding Freelancing Happiness

Last time in “Waiting for Work” I talked about how downtime between jobs can be detrimental to your business, depending on how you decide to ride the waves of the freelancing life, and how self-fulfilling prophesy plays a larger part in our lives than we’d like to think. (Ironic.) The truth is:

We have far more control over everything than we think we do, simply by the power of our minds and intentions!

As a follow up to that article, I’d like to offer these

4 Suggestions to Finding Freelance Happiness

1. Remove the Angst.

First, remove the [negative] self-prophesying from your life. Stop dreading the client hunt. Stop hating the gaps where you don’t have work.

Stop the cycle of negativity surrounding your experience as a freelancer. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll come to actually enjoy the quiet (see #4).

2. Have a plan for your portfolio, and keep it clean.

One of my favorite books is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. (Okay. I lie. It’s my absolute favorite. I actually have three different copies of it. #forshame) I have a not-so-secret crush on red-haired architect Howard Roark. Admittedly, he’d make an awful IRL boyfriend (what a selfish, work-absorbed jerk!) So why do I love him so much? Because, like honey badger, Roark don’t give a sh*t.

One of the most famed quotes from Roark should be the mantra of many a freelancer:

“I don’t build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build.”

Before I met Roark, I was a lost 10th grader who was trying to fit in. I felt an overwhelming sense of obligation. I hate obligation. Feeling obligated all the time actually put me in a deeply depressed and anxious funk. I was miserable, and my family couldn’t figure out why. Turns out, obligation hits harder on Creatives (remember: being Creative is different than simply having creativity) and I felt like the obligation was literally eating me alive.

Other reading: “Can a creative person survive corporate life?”

Then here was this character, Howard Roark, who basically said, “Screw you and your obligations and ideas about who I should be [as an architect]. I don’t care. I’m doing what want to do, because this [designing buildings] is what I was made to do!”

Heck, yeah!

Roark is the epitomal hero of all freelancers, or at least I think he should be. Sure, he’s poor sometimes. Sure, he struggles. But he never gives in to the angst of negative thinking. He always believes in his God-given destiny: To build, and to build the way he was made to.

Roark ends up being a very successful and strongly sought-after architect, designing buildings that awe the masses. More importantly, Roark ends up happier than his adversaries, other architects who gave in to obligation and expectations and built buildings they not only didn’t like, but didn’t believe in and even downright hated.


That’s why MOI doesn’t take on projects we don’t believe in. It guarantees we’ll do our best job, every time, and be damn proud of the end result, every time. If I don’t believe in your goal, your project, I won’t do it. Period.

I learned about professional regret the hard way after taking on jobs in desperation in the beginning of MOI’s life. I didn’t like the projects and didn’t like the results. Even now thinking of them leaves a bad taste in my mouth and, the worst part? The jobs didn’t even pay well. There was very little value to the work, and almost zero money. I feel like those jobs have dirtied my portfolio, and all because I didn’t stick with believing I’d find jobs that I believed in.

In short: It isn’t worth it to take a job you don’t believe in.

Other reading: “The Big “O” [Obligation] For Introverts”

3. Have a Filler Ready.

There are guaranteed to be times when there is no work on the table. Though the thought of no income can be frustrating, it is not the end-all. While you should be taking this time to seek new contracts, you can’t do that all day long, every day. You’ll burn out!

So, have a filler at the ready to occupy these moments.

Distract yourself from stressing out over the “no work” mantra in your head with other work-related projects. They could be personal projects that you’ve been wanting to get to for a while that would be beneficial to your career (e.g. finishing writing your novel), or other investments into your business that you didn’t have time for before (e.g. taking a class on accounting or a graphic design course).

Though I have many (MANY!) projects that I love to get into, I often use Textbroker.com as a filler because I do have monthly bills that need paying. Even though I don’t earn much, at least I’m (1) bringing some cash flow in as well as (2) maintaining my “writing muscles” by continuing to practice and challenge my craft.

4. Enjoy the Quiet.

Finally, learn to enjoy these quiet moments with personal, non-work projects and hobbies. Consider them vacations and opportunities to reconnect with yourself as a person, because sometimes we can lose ourselves to the identity we adapt when we’re constantly working.


Ironically, I’ve found that it’s when I let my guard down, relax into a quiet moment, and stop worrying about what’s next, that I’m contacted by clients — either repeat customers or new ones entirely — about potential work. And I didn’t even have to fish for them!

In conclusion, don’t fret about those down times when you’re waiting for work. I’m not going to say “enjoy them,” but I will say learn to neutralize negative self-prophesy by adapting to those quiet times and accepting that they happen to even the best freelancers.

Like Howard Roark.

Thoughts? Suggestions of your own? Please share in the comments!


Waiting For Work: Is Self-Fulfilling Prophesy Holding You Back from Freelancing Happiness?

Something strange happened to me the last few months: I’ve stopped stressing over work. Not work, specifically, but waiting for it to come.

In the beginning, I got the strong notion that freelancing life would be tumultuous, filled with emotional ups and downs that would leave me fishing desperately for jobs one day and drowning in a tidal wave of work the next. I would feel lonely, isolated, yet elated at pursuing my passion at the same time.

And, for a while, it was like that: a horrible psychological bipolar effect where I was always worried about the next downer moment, so much so that I could never fully appreciate the enjoyable here and now.

Freelance life still is full of ups and downs, but I have a different attitude about those waves than I did before. Before, I was floundering, drowning and gasping as I fought the currents, determined to maintain my elevation even if the tides I sat on were emphatically uncontrollable.

Now? I’ve learned to work with the waves, riding my awesome surfboard of freelancing happiness, bobbing up and down with the tide as if its nature’s very own roller coaster ride.

What changed?

In the middle of a recent panic, I started to wonder if it — the stress, the failure to get clients, the gaps of time without income — was all a product of my own (rather false) expectations about how freelancing life is. If, in all my stress and attempts at “growing my business,” I actually got in my own way. If my expectation for hardship at the close of a contract actually created a bubble of hardship at the close of a contract.

And my wonderings led me to realize I indeed was doing all of that. Me. I was drowning myself in freelance misery!

The Very REAL Power of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

First, let’s go over what, exactly, self-fulfilling prophecy is. Study.com says

“A self-fulfilling prophecy is when a person unknowingly causes a prediction to come true, due to the simple fact that he or she expects it to come true.”

Let’s say I, a freelancer, have just finished my latest project. There is nothing on the calendar for new work. I have a desert of emptiness ahead of me.

I need to find a new contract.

I immediately start looking for more work — say, through online marketplaces like Upwork — and at the same time begin to, even unintentionally, think to myself, ‘I hate this part. This is so hard. So nerve-racking. The market is way competitive. Look at all those other guys bidding on the same job! I’m going to apply for a ton of jobs and not get any of them, I just know it.’

Then — BAM! Guess what? I didn’t get any of them.

Why do I think this way? Maybe it’s because it’s been my common experience, and that’s perfectly valid. Stereotypes are, after all, molded from grains of truth.

But that’s only part of it.

I’ve come to believe it’s also because when I was mentally prepping to become a freelancer I read a ton of articles about how finding new work is one of the hardest parts of the being a freelancer. In a short time, I was convinced. After that, I gritted my teeth, preparing for the daunting task of finding work.

And what happens when we go into a task, teeth clenched, stressed out, forcing ourselves to do it (albeit reluctantly)?

As the Study.com article states,

“Our actions toward others impact their beliefs about us, which dictates their actions towards us, which then reinforces our beliefs about ourselves. This, in turn, influences our actions towards others, which brings us back to the beginning of the cycle.”

So I expect not to be hired for anything, therefore maybe I

  1. Rush through bid writing just to “get it over with.”
  2. End up not putting my best work forward and
  3. I come off as either cocky or unconfident in my abilities as a writer/illustrator/etc.
  4. And nobody wants to hire a cocky or uncertain freelancer (duh!), so
  5. I end up not getting hired for anything.

And the cycle starts again.

See Farther Beyond Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I’ve written how just saying “yes” (with enthusiasm!) in 2016 really blew away previous years’ business. I said yes to anything, with very few exceptions. It was tiring and overwhelming, but I got a lot more done in a lot more ways than I would have ever expected.

And “getting things done” isn’t just about raking in the money, but about experience, knowledge, and opportunity. Specifically, opportunities that would prove useful — and even profitable — in 2017.

(I know, I know… You’re thinking, “That just means you didn’t make any money.” Not true: I did make money. I just didn’t bring a lot of it home because I ended up reinvesting that income into MOI (marketing, ads, web development, etc.). So, while I didn’t put many numbers into the Owner’s Pay column of my accounting books, there were a lot of extra numbers being recorded elsewhere.)

Having a motto — a short phrase I could say to myself to help me to maintain focus — was just the catalyst I needed to enhance my freelancing experience.

As a result of this motto success, I adapted “See Farther” for 2017, which means I’m taking my “Yes” a step into the future and trying to envision how that automatic yes will effect me and my business in the long run.

Now we’re not only talking money (worth), but VALUE. The worth of a contract is the monetary sum you’ll receive for doing the work. The value of a contract is its worth PLUS what that contract can offer non-monetarily (e.g. free marketing, networking, more contracts later on).

Ideally, each job will offer both worth and value. But, sometimes, they have more value than worth (say, a low- or non-paying gig that offers a lot of positive exposure to potential future clients). An example is taking low-paying jobs to build up your resume.

Establishing value in a project with a client requires forethought, insight, even a little business politics and suave. So an immediate “Just say yes” policy doesn’t always work.

Therefore, establishing value into my work means saying no sometimes. Even to myself.

How Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Effects “Seeing Farther”

There are two kinds of self-fulfilling prophecy: negative and positive. Most of the time, people get disheartened because they’re trapped by negativity. The funny (yet not so funny) thing about negative thinking is that it comes on fairly automatically; we don’t have to teach ourselves to be negative or to doubt ourselves. It just… happens.

On the other hand, positive thinking actually requires practice. You literally have to actively stop yourself from thinking negative thoughts and actively replace those with positive ones. Positive thinking can become habitual, but it’s a much more difficult habit to pick up than negative thinking.

So, if I fall victim to a pattern of negative thinking, that creates a bubble around me of self-fulfilling prophecies that will negatively impact how successful I am, how good I feel, and how the world interacts with me personally and in business.

Speaking specifically on moments of waiting for work, if I hold fast to the idea that bidding for jobs is a horrible experience and I expect not to get work from it, it will be horrible and I won’t get work.

But a freelancer can’t simply not look for work. So what’s a girl (or guy) to do?

Considering worth versus value, I know I have to judge when to say yes to what may seem initially like a great job. But, if I can’t see that job taking me beyond the limits of the contract, it provides much less value to me than it would otherwise.

If I give in to negative self-fulfilling prophecy, that in effect will shut down any positive growth MOI has looking forward. There is no “seeing farther.” That negativity has built a wall, blocking my view.

There are things you can do to stop this cycle of harmful self-prophecy in your life, and I’ll touch on those in a later article. For now, take time to recognize merely when you’re trapping yourself by these thoughts. Remember: You can’t fix a problem unless you first identify it!

Take a moment to analyze WHY you’re feeling negatively: Self-doubt? Fear of success? Fear of rejection? Someone told you you should feel that way (as was the case with me when I read articles about how I should feel about looking for work)?

Acknowledgement is the first step to finding freelancing happiness and true value in what you set out to do when you decided to become a freelancer in the first place:

Change the world, and your life, with your craft!

Has negative thinking impacted your freelancing career? Share your story with MOI in the comments!



More Than Words: 3 Reasons Why MOI Offers Creative Services Of All Sorts

Even though Mountain Owl Ink LLC started off as a word-centric business, I quickly got bored of writing all day just months into it in mid-2013.

*GASP!* Say it ain’t so!?

Well, yes, it was so. I wrote and wrote, edited and edited, and slowly but surely became embittered toward my keyboard. My carpal tunnel starting coming back, making me hate typing even more. When it was time to clock out, I didn’t even want to touch a keyboard or typewriter, much less write something fun. For me.

I knew I had to mix it up, lest lose my desire to write altogether.

Truth is, while I love writing, my creative interests span far and wide. And, because I am owner, CEO, CFO, COO, and 100% of MOI’s Board of Directors, I’m free to spread my wings and serve the creative needs of people in whatever way I can. Woot woot! (Or, rather, hoot hoot!)

3 Reasons Why MOI Offers Creative Services Of All Sorts

First, above everything, MOI is about helping people.

If what I’m doing isn’t helpful, what’s the point?

Humans are social creatures (even if in shades), and have an intrinsic need to feel, well, needed. And feeling needed — being helpful — is an excellent motivator. If we’re caught up in work that isn’t needed or doesn’t help someone other than ourselves, our sense of esteem, identity, and purpose suffers.

Imagine you’ve been hired as a construction worker. Then your supervisor assigns you your job: to dig a hole and refill it, then when you’re done with that, dig it again just to refill it again. Over and over again. This will be your job forever. You’ll still get paid, no matter if you dig it faster or slower, just so long as you dig. And nobody’s going to use the hole (or the dirt you dig up) for anything. It’s just there for you. To keep you busy. But, don’t worry: You’ll get paid for it.

At first the arrangement may seem acceptable — heck, it’s an easy, no-brainer paycheck! Or is it? You’ll quickly start to question the wider purpose of your efforts. You’ll quickly realize you aren’t motivated exclusively by money; you’re also motivated by your desire to feel needed, helpful, and productive.

That — feeling needed — is why being employed is so important on a basic human level. Believe it or not, you aren’t employed for the greater good of society! You’re also not working for some higher, altruistic purpose. You’re employed — and you should want to be employed — for the good of YOURSELF.

Think about it.

Speaking of self…

The second reason MOI offers creative services of all sorts is because of ME.

I want satisfaction (which doesn’t always equal “happiness” — know the difference!) in work. Along with the desire to be needed, I want to face challenges, reach goals, tally accomplishments, and experience a variety of thought and work.

In a survey, 85% of people said variety was important or very important to their job satisfaction.


85% of people surveyed said variety is “Important” or “Very Important” to their job satisfaction. (c) Statista 2017

If I were surveyed, I’d be in the “Very Important” category. And I’m guessing that many of the others in that group are probably Creatives like myself: artists, writers, etc. (Psst… being A Creative is not the same as being creative.)

But, just because you want to, doesn’t mean you can. I’m of the unpopular belief that a person cannot “Do anything they set their minds to.” Some people just aren’t made to write. Or paint. Or build. Or swim. Or drive…

I love this clip from “Gone in 60 Seconds” because it’s so true! I think if more people accepted that there are some things they just aren’t designed to do, they’d be a lot happier and the world would be a lot better off.

That’s why…

The last thing that drives MOI is my ability to do.

As a renaissance woman, I can do lots of stuff: write, illustrate, design, build, cook, sew, and the list goes on. I don’t say I do any of it perfectly, but I can do it well.

Combining my desire to fulfill people’s creative project needs with my desire to fulfill my desire for variety with the final ingredient — my ability to actually do this stuff — results in merely one big, rhetorical question:

Why not?

Home Decor: The latest project.

Recently I was approached with a request to help design and make a wooden sign for an engagement party. The job was easy enough and I knew I could do it, so, again, why not?

The project was small and took only a few days from conception to finished product. The customers were very happy with the end result, seen in the image below.

Final Product_June2017

This post isn’t a “how to” on making a sign like this. It’s simply an admission that (1) I can, and (2) Mountain Owl does.

(Bonus: Their sign is one-of-a-kind. The compass image in the background, the layout, that’s all MOI-designed. They didn’t buy the product from a craft or gift store that sells the same inspirational sign that hundreds of other stores sell. They’ll never see this sign in someone else’s home. Ever.)

So, even if you don’t need something written or edited, maybe there’s something else Mountain Owl Ink can help you with?


If so, reach out by emailing Jessi[at]MountainOwlInk[dot][com] or dropping me a line on the Contact page. You can also see MOI’s other projects on the portfolio page.

A more detailed step-by-step of the sign project, start to finish: