Monday, June 27, 2011

My Audition for Project Accessory

Anyone familiar with the Lifetime (once Bravo) show Project Runway can quickly envision what the new spinoff Project Accessory might entail. This new show pits shoe, handbag and jewelry designers against one another to find the best overall accessory designers. Recently they held auditions in Miami, New York, Chicago and L.A. I was so excited to be able to go to the Chicago call out this past Thursday.

It was a VERY early morning for me. I planned on waking at 4:30am, but pushed the snooze until around 5:15. I left home around 6am, but with the time change, I was able to get to Chicago around 7am. The auditions were supposed to start at 9am at the Hard Rock Hotel. I figured the line would be around the block, but only around 30 people were there that early. We all headed into a room on the second floor and took seats to get ready for the first round of screening. It wasn't long before the room filled up and an overflow room also started swarming with hopefuls.

The crowd was such an interesting assortment of people, people dressed to the nines, or just completely quirky and bizarre, or more casual like me. Some people carried luggage filled with bags or shoes. There were a ton of jewelry designers and the screeners told us off the bat that we should feel lucky if we made it through the first round because they had seen so many jewelers at the other two auditions.

They called us up one by one to a screening table. One extremely nice and patient woman was doing all of the screening but she also had an assistant who handled all the applications and took photos of the people who got through the first round. The woman screening my jewelry was incredibly complementary and she even gave me some tips of what to say in front of the judges. On a side note, when I told her I was also a personal trainer, she told me that her last job was producing the Biggest Loser and she made a point of saying she had absolutely nothing to do with choosing Anna Kournikova as their next trainer. I knew this lady had great taste when she dissed Kournikova. Anyway, she passed me through and I shuffled over to the side to get my photo taken by the assistant. My photo was attached to my application and I was given a bright pink wristband.

After the first round, the waiting really started. We moved rooms and people kept shuffling in and out as they went through the first screening. Finally, around 3pm we were called to do an on-camera interview with the judges. They took us back to a hallway and a member of the crew hooked me up with a microphone. We were given very detailed instructions on how to proceed once we entered the room. We were supposed to drop off our jewelry and portfolios to the judges and then step back to a mark where we would answer some of their questions. I had made some hand-bound small portfolios of my work and I brought some necklaces and rings.


When I entered the room, the lights were so bright and the judges looked fantastic, as if they were being filmed for the actual show. There were two men and two women and they were all extremely nice. They asked me how I would take the concept of certain jewelry pieces and apply them to shoe and handbag design. They said they were really impressed by my answers. They also said that I should look into selling through the Sundance catalog because they thought I would do very well. They said that they may be contacting me for further information, so I didn't get a definite no or a definite yes. I will be shocked ten ways to Tuesday if I hear from them, but it would be amazing if I did!

All in all, it was an amazing experience and I will probably audition next year as well. It helped me to think more about how I present my work and it helped me to think from a fashion perspective rather than an art perspective. Now I'm focusing more on lines of jewelry and releasing new designs for seasons much like fashion designers. I may also take some time to do some side projects designing handbags and shoes to help my chances for next year. Ultimately, it gave me some validation and more creative impetus to take my jewelry to a new level and I can't wait to get started in the studio with the new energy I have.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shifting my Focus

I've decided to slightly shift my focus for this blog. I originally wanted to blog about my attempts to make money as an online freelance writer. As circumstances have changed and my earnings have started to plummet, I'm realizing that its just not worth my time to keep plugging away on my writing. Sure, I'll still write, but I won't spend nearly as much time on it as I once did.

Ofcourse, writing was never my only job. After I was laid-off from my teaching job, I started my jewelry business, Quite Clever Jewelry. I also wrote curriculum and taught classes at my local art museum. Lately I have started teaching Zumba classes and I recently passed my personal training exam, so I will also start training clients, hopefully soon.

As many other self-employed people, I have pursued a number of jobs to create a steady income. Since I have managed to be successful in a number of self-employed ventures, I decided that this blog should cover the struggles and successes involved with transitioning to a self-employed career.

I will still be writing about freelancing, but I will also provide information on how to create your own job, how to diversify your income, how to save money and even how to handle taxes. I hope that you will enjoy and be able to benefit from this new direction. I look forward to sharing more about my other ventures. Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Content Mill?

So, those of you who have been writing for residuals have probably figured out that your earnings have taken a hit recently. It's all part of Google's attempts to weed out content mills from their search results. Though you might think that your articles are better than "content mill" quality, Google may not see them that way.

I actually was surprised by some of the sites that took the largest financial hits. Suite101, which I always looked at as being one of the better writing sites, has seen a page view and residual decline of nearly 40%. It's hard to convince writers to increase their articles with a down trend in earnings.

Oddly though, sites like eHow seem to be doing fine. eHow, to me, is the quintessential definition of a content mill. It's articles lack consistency and many of them are just poor. For some reason though, eHow earnings have not declined dramatically.

Since I am not a techie, I must admit that I don't quite understand why some sites or articles do better than others in this new Google environment. I'll have to wait to hear what the pros recommend. For now, I'm taking a bit of a writing break and focusing on my jewelry. Luckily, I have just also started a job teaching Zumba, so I have more money coming in.

For those who don't have that extra income, it may be time to regroup. Perhaps the next step would be to write fewer articles, but make those articles extremely well-researched and detailed. Again, I will keep my ear to the ground and listen to the pro's advice. One thing is for sure though, business as usual is over. It's time to change.

What are your thoughts on the new Google changes?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Secret to Great Photography is to Take Enough Photos

Today, I was thinking about a photojournalism class I took in college, way back in the day when we used to use film in our cameras. Part of our requirements for that class was to take a roll of film a day. It didn't matter what we shot, as long as we used the entire roll of film and shot throughout the day.

The reason that this practice was stressed is because the true secret to great photography is taking enough photos to increase your odds of having a great one. Sure, you need to learn how to properly work your camera and how to manipulate your images with your shutter speed and f-stop settings, but great photographs are about capturing the moment. You can't do that while calculating your next shot in your head.

I think that online writers can also benefit from this philosophy. How many times do we online writers research techniques, chat in the forums and obsessively check our stats. Though it is important to know techniques and proper writing practices, too many writers spend too much time thinking about writing.

Instead of planning, just write. Write as many well-written articles as you can. Your writing skills will advance and you will increase your chances of writing an article that banks the big bucks. Instead of scouring the internet for trade secrets, write what you know, write it well and write it in as many articles as you can.

Sometimes we in the writing community just need more "do" than "think". This is not to discourage research and planning, but the more articles you publish, the greater your chances of hitting the residual earnings goldmine. So commit to writing at least one article a day and see where it takes you.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's a New Year with New Goals

Some photos from my Christmas celebration that I used to spell out Christmas.
Well, quite a lot has happened since I last posted. We celebrated Christmas AND New Year's, I had a successful One of a Kind Show in Chicago and I finished teaching my first round of classes at the art museum.

All in all, it has been a great 2010 and I'm looking forward to taking my business and my freelance writing to new levels in 2011. I have a lot of business and personal goals that I'd like to tackle. It seems that I have so many pans in the fire though, it's hard to know which one needs to have the pancakes flipped. ha ha. It is just exciting though to have so many opportunities. It's amazing what you can carve out for yourself when you have to.

My booth at OOAK Chicago, 2010.
The One of a Kind show was really great. My booth display worked well, and I lucked out by getting a great spot right next to the swanky lounge area. They had fruit and brie plates that were y-u-m-m-y, even if they were a little pricey. Anyway, I sold a lot and made some good connections. At the moment, I am signed up to go back again next year.

As for my writing, I'm just going to try to focus on sending a lot of articles out into the stratosphere. It would be great if I could reach 300 articles on Suite101. If you haven't heard, Suite has added new incentives for writers who reach 300 articles. Contributing writers get a 20% bonus and feature writers get a 40% bonus. That's really amazing to think that we'd get 40% above our normal rate. At the moment, I'm only at 124 articles, but I could get to 300 if I eally pushed myself. It just might be hard to find the time with my jewelry and teaching.

Anyway, Rome wasn't built in a day. If I just keep my head down and keep chipping away, eventually I'll tackle my goals. Hopefully you all had a great New Year's Eve! I wish everyone a prosperous 2011 and I hope that all of your business goals come to fruition!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Bare Minimum

Lately I've been doing the bare minimum when it comes to writing. I'm just doing enough to keep up with my quotas at Suite and AC. I've also not posted quite as much on my blogs. This is because I just started teaching a jewelry-making class and I am working to produce new jewelry pieces for the One of a Kind show in Chicago this December.

Granted, freelance writing is nice in the fact that it allows you to scale down your work load when necessary. That said, I wish that I could find the time to just double my bare minimum because it's always better to write sooner rather than later. This is because older articles tend to rank better in Google searches. Residual writing is like banking because the more you invest early, the more you'll reap in the end.

So even though it is sometimes necessary to just fulfill your minimum requirements for writing, it is never wise to signifigantly lesson your production for a long period of time. I'm hoping to offset my current lull with my own personal writing challenge in January. I'm going to try to write 60 articles in 30 days to kick off the new year and kick my residual earnings into full gear.

In keeping with the idea of the bare minimum, I should point out that less can also be a good thing, especially when you're self-employed. It's important to know what you can live without and arrange your life to cater to your real necessities. This will allow you to save money and thrive, even in financially lean months.

Even though I could cut back more, I have eliminated quite a bit of excess spending in my life. Perhaps the best way I eliminated waste was to clean my closet. I found clothes that I didn't know I owned. If I look in my closet I can honestly say that I don't need to purchase any more clothes for the year. I can get by with the clothes that I have and change up my look with inexpensive accessories such as belts and scarves.

I also cut and color my own hair. Instead of spending $60+ at the salon, I spend around $7 and do my hair at home. It's not as hard as one might think and there are many Youtube tutorials to help you cut and style your hair. If you have the courage, you might be surprised at your results. I'm quite pleased with mine.

I also cancelled my cable. I hated Comcast anyway and the channels would always hiccup and fizzle. I now go with a Roku player. The Roku player costs around $50 and offers a number of free Internet channels such as Newscaster, which shows all the network news shows such as Rachel Maddow and CNN with Anderson Cooper. It also offers Netflix, Amazon OnDemand, and Hulu Plus. Who needs cable with all of that?

There are lots of ways to cut costs at home. If you're having problems thinking of ways, try some of these:
  • Make and take your own coffee in a thermos. It's probably better than Starbucks and at a fraction of the cost.
  • Grow your own vegetables.
  • Eat in more. Cut down your eating out to once a month or once a week if you eat out often.
  • Use to cut coupons for food shopping.
  • Drop your phone's data plan. Instead of spending $80 for a data plan, get a $30 talk plan. You can even purchase a used smartphone and still use the apps with WiFi.
  • Shop with a list and stick to it. (This one's hard for me)
  • Drop the gym membership. Excercise by running or walking outside. When it gets cold, do excercise DVDs inside. You could even go to classes or get a cheaper membership at a community center rather than a commercial gym.
  • Refinance your house. Though this may not be for everyone, the record low interests rates make refinancing very desirable. Talk to a lender and make sure you get a fixed rate and that your monthly bills would be signifigantly reduced.
Hopefully these tips can help you cut the fat from your daily expenses. Though it's difficult, I try to use the bare minimum while working as much as I can (withouth burning out). This is the best way I have of making my dream of being my own boss work for me. Eventually I can start working a bit less and spending a bit more, but now it's work time.

What do you go without in order to work from home?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Out of Office

Okay, so technically I was really "out of house" more than "out of office", but it's the same thing when you work from home. I actually have been all over the place for a while. I went to Portland with my best friend of 28 years (we met when we were 5). I was helping her move which I am incredibly sad about since she's now 2200 miles and three time zones from me.

Anyway, we drove a 16-foot Penske truck and towed her Honda Element. Oh, and did I mention that we also had her two cats in the cab with us? Crazy, I know. And the entire trip took us four days to drive from Chicago to Portland on Route 90.

During the trip we saw a lot of Wall Drug signs and drove through some mountains. We quickly learned that third gear is our friend when driving a huge truck down steep inclines. We also tested the limits of how much truck stop junk food you can stomach in one trip.

Luckily we made it to Portland in one piece and got her all moved in to her new apartment. I stayed for a couple of days and got to see the lay of the land there. I then flew back and started working like a mad woman in my studio.

You see, I have two upcoming art shows that are only two weeks apart from each other. One is this weekend and the next is the first of October. I am also teaching a metal's class at the local art museum that starts on October 6th.

So basically I have been prepping for all three events and have had little time to check back in with this blog. Luckily this morning I had a little extra time and the inclination to say hello . . . so hello.

I have to say that working from home and doing the work that I do requires me to fluctuate between extremely busy and slightly busy times. When I slip into an extremely busy period, some of my ventures tend to fall by the wayside. I guess that's just one of the things you have to deal with though when you work for yourself. It's sure better than working a "traditional" job.

What do you find are the pitfalls of working at home? Do you also have issues with trying to do it all? I always think I just need better scheduling, but then I never stick to the schedule, ha ha. Anyway, whatever your work-at-home challenges, I wish you luck! Now I'm off to work!