How I’m Making Money On UpWork As A Freelance Writer

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At the end of July of 2017 I began looking at new ways to make some money. I love to write and ultimately want to publish some books. I began to wonder if I shouldn’t try to get some freelance writing jobs. About that time, my cousin suggested a site called UpWork. For those of you not familiar with UpWork, it was created after the merger of two other freelance connection sites – Elance and oDesk. UpWork, like its predecessors, works to link together clients with freelancers. The catch – they take a whole 20% of the total billed amount. Yes, this is a large percentage. That is the biggest downside to UpWork.

Let me give you a little background on my experience with the site as of right now.

Opening an Account

I was confused as all get out at first. I have never been a freelancer and I had no idea what to do on the site. Here are some steps you need to make BEFORE you start to submit proposals for jobs. Take a look at my profile here before you read on so you at least have a visual understanding of what I am talking about.

  • Ensure you complete your profile – There will be a meter telling you how much of your profile is complete. No client will bother with any freelancer who does not have a complete profile.
  • Photograph – You need to find a professional looking photo, preferably of you in business attire. You need to look friendly in the photo, as studies have shown that a simple smile can get you more jobs. I don’t know what program UpWork uses to ensure profile photos are good ones, but it is hard to get one approved (at least it was for me).
  • Profile Information – Go browse successful freelancers on UpWork and see what they put in their profile. Try to make yours look like theirs, just with your information. You need a good and to the point section to tell clients about you. I have changed mine regularly as I learn better ways to describe myself and my skills. You will have sections for your education, certifications, work history, and other experiences. Fill it out as much as you can but DO NOT LIE. If you lie and get caught up with work you can’t handle, it will be evident pretty quickly.
  • Payment Verified – When you browse UpWork clients and freelances, you will see a little mark signaling whether or not payment for that user has been verified. This is very important, as most people simply do not bother dealing with anyone unless they see the payment is verified. I don’t even look at clients who can’t verify how they will pay me and I don’t expect them to deal with me if I don’t verify mine. This is just another way to signal you are a real and serious freelancer.
  • Tests – UpWork offers hundreds of tests for you to prove your skills. These range from language skills, management skills, to programming skills. Take the ones that are relevant to the field you will be in. If you do well, they will say you scored in the top 10% or something similar and note that in your profile. You don’t have to have these tests visible on your profile if you don’t want, so don’t worry about taking one and failing it. Just know that you have to wait 3 months before you can take the same tests again. Why are the tests important? To show clients you really do know your stuff.
  • Portfolio – If you have some good samples of your work, you need to put them in your portfolio for clients to see. I lost my jump drive with all my old work, so I had to piecemeal mine together.

Feedback

You won’t have any feedback when you start, which is the hardest thing to deal with. The main thing clients look at is a freelancer’s feedback history, just as it is the main thing you need to look at before deciding whether or not to work for a client. Since you have no feedback, the first job will be the hardest. How do you get feedback? Get some jobs and knock them out of the park like I did.

Submitting Proposals

Now what? It is time to browse and start submitting proposals. Search for jobs in your desired field. One trick I quickly learned – when searching, take OFF the filter that shows you jobs only in the US. All of the jobs I have gotten so far have come from overseas. As soon as you take the filter off, the number of available jobs usually triples.

You are given 60 CONNECTS each month with the basic free account. This will allow you to apply for 30 jobs, as each job usually requires 2 connects to apply. Once you use your connects, you can’t apply for any more jobs until your connects refresh the next month. I ran out the first month, but have learned to pace them. DO use them all, as they do not carry over.

When you find a job you might be interested in, just know that there is an art to submitting proposals. Remember this – there are foreigners who apply to every single job that pops up and they all use the same generic proposal cover letter.

  • Submit to each one with a new cover letter, not just a copy and paste generic letter. You need to show the client that you really read their job description (some have ways to verify this anyway). Here is a typical letter that I write (of course, I tailor it to each posting).

Hello,

I am writing to you about your need for someone to write some articles for you. I have attached my resume so you can view my education and experience. I am a native English speaker. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in teaching. I worked as a research assistant in graduate school and then taught high school.

I see you need articles for a political website. May I ask what the majority of the articles need to be about? Is there are certain political party your site caters to?

While I am new to UpWork, I am certainly not new to the professional realm.

You can see some of my work in the portfolio section of my profile. If you have any questions about my qualifications, please feel free so ask me. I hope you find the right person for your job.

Take Care

 

There are a few things to this. I offer my resume because it says more than I need to say in a cover letter and I am lucky to have an extensive one with great experience. I also offer the resume because I am still new on UpWork without a whole lot of feedback.

It is important to mention that you are a native English speaker. Most clients are looking for this, not a foreigner who says they know English. I have nothing against them, but their English skills will never quite grasp the language’s nuances needed for some jobs.

Notice how I mentioned specific things from the job posting and then I asked questions. It shows that I read their post and am interested, but not overly interested. Remember, you want jobs that are good fits for you and the clients, so don’t beg.

How Has It Worked For Me?

On August 1st I got my first UpWork job. This was writing five articles about the United Nations for a Model UN website. It was for $50, of which I would receive $40. The articles needed to be about 1000 words each. I got lucky – I’ve created Model UN teams as two high schools. I nailed the articles well ahead of the deadline and submitted them. The client loved them and immediately offered more.

THE BEST WAY TO MAKE MONEY ON UPWORK IS TO MAKE THE CLIENTS HAPPY SO THEY KEEP YOU ON CONTRACT.

Every client I’ve had so far has used me again immediately after I submitted the first job. Good, fast work leads to recurring clients.

On August 7th I got an entirely different job with an advertising firm. I was to take 60 sentences and rewrite each one three times without changing the meaning – $40 charge. They would then choose the one that works the best for ads. Well, this is nothing like anything I’ve ever done, but I wanted to try. I love writing and I’m good with words. Turns out, I did it in a few hours. I made about $20 an hour with this job. When I turned it in the client was so impressed that they immediately gave me another set. They also left great feedback.

On September 4th I saw a job that involved taking photographs of certain rooms in a house, giving the photo a title, and writing a one sentence description about them. The job offered $20 for 100 descriptions. I bid on it, but I didn’t bid at $20. I bid at $25. Why? Because I know my value and that is what I would do it for. I was actually surprised when the client contacted me the next morning, asked for a few samples, and hired me at the higher price. I finished the job in two days and they offered unlimited work for me. Another recurring client.

So, that is my experience so far. I am certainly not making mega dollars, but I am able to do this work from anywhere with an internet connection. As my feedback increases, I expect to get better work. I have upped my hourly charge once and will do so again once I get a few more jobs under my belt. I always look at profiles of successful freelancer on UpWork to see if I can make my profile better.

I will continue to update this post about once a month. I will let you know whether or not this is something I will stick with. Only time will tell. Again, take a look at my page for some ideas of how to set yours up.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or contact me through email or social media.

 

 

 

 

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Since I Started High School

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I’m starting a post about the state of the US when I started high school. I hope others will write their own. I’ve found it interesting to look back and see what was going on when I started high school. It’s amazing how much I didn’t know about the world then, so going back and looking at all the news highlights, knowing what I know now, is a journey. I didn’t actually intend on this being anything but a fun post, but reality set in as I started to write.

I started high school in the year 2000. Bill Clinton was president, but as we all know, it was an election year. THE election year. Bush versus Gore. The outcome would shape everything I’ve known since.

When I started high school:

  • Y2K turned out to be just a big party
  • The US had a $232 billion SURPLUS not a deficit
  • Gas was $1.26 per gallon
  • Unemployment was at 3.8% (an absurdly low rate)
  • The Yankees won the World Series, the Rams won the Superbowl
  • Survivor was the number one show (can’t believe that show is still around)
  • Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Eminem, blah, blah, blah

We should have known things were brewing. In 2000:

  • The Pyrenean Ibex went extinct
  • The Dot-Com bubble burst
  • Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia (I mean, damn, he’s still there)
  • I’m sure I was wearing ridiculous clothing held over from the 90’s

I started high school before the Supreme Court put George Bush in office, changing the next few decades of military and political roles and influence. It was before 9/11, an event that taught Americans that our isolation can be violated. It reopened the wounds of those who lived through Pearl Harbor and taught a new generation that the days of our invulnerability were gone. For a moment in time, though, it united the country as we tried to heal.

When I started high school, I thought the idea of war was cool (having not learned what war really was). The invasion of Iraq had my full support. I didn’t understand then, when I started high school, that my country was capable of mistakes.

We started the year 2000 with hope. Hope for our booming economy. Hope for global partnership. We were boosted up for a new millennium, so full of energy that anything seemed possible. If the year 2000 taught us anything, it’s that things can change.

Since the year I started high school, things have changed. The victor of the 2000 election was handed one of the worst situations our country has ever faced, and he handled it well…at first. He attacked those we thought were responsible, then abused our blank check to start a war with someone else.

In 2000, our economy was so good that we couldn’t know that a combination of 90’s mortgage policies and labor union exploitation would set off a major economic disaster. We couldn’t know that our hopes would be dashed by 2007, but renewed in 2008 when we thought racism was on its way to defeat. Our first black president would bring us together, or so we thought.

Since 2000, a hurricane in one of our oldest cities taught us that underlying racial tensions can lead to delayed assistance for those who need it the most. Since then, race has taken center stage. Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott. Ferguson and Baltimore. In my home state, a sick and deranged young man murdered nine African Americans in Charleston. In a church. I wish he was alone in his thinking, but after what we all just saw in Charlottesville, Virginia, we know better.

Black Lives Matter was born because of much of this, though we should have never gotten to a place where we had to be reminded that anyone’s lives matter. How is it that we don’t know, don’t realize, that every single life should matter?

Just a thought, but most of that happened under a black president.

How could we know, in 2000, that a real estate businessman, a reality TV joke, would become president of our country. We should have known. We would have known, if we had been careful in monitoring just how much certain groups in this country were looking for an answer to the hate they had been building. We’d have seen those who were just waiting to hear their dreams spoken by a demagogue who could disguise their ideals inside the guise of patriotic nationalism. Too bad we never paid attention to 1930s German history.

Yes, we’ve had trouble since 2000.

And damn, here’s what’s happening now:

But we’re not going to give up. I didn’t know about these issues when I started high school, but now I do. I know how to write, so I’ll figure it out that way. I would never have come out back then, but now I have. We’ll make it through this okay. Just hold on tight, it’s going to be a wild ride.

My Solar Eclipse 2017 Experience

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I just got home from watching the solar eclipse with my parents. We live in Surfside Beach, SC, so we didn’t get complete totality like they did in Columbia or Charleston, but that didn’t matter. It was an amazing experience! We were nervous for a little while. All we heard the entire morning was thunder and there were clouds covering the entire sky up until twenty minutes before it began. Then they just parted! Everywhere around us had clouds except for where we were.

I love to write. It’s what I do for a living. My goal is always to put value into each sentence I create, something that will evoke emotions from the reader. Well, nothing brings emotions to the surface like the natural world. To watch something so beautiful, so completely beyond what words can express, is simply awesome. We are powerless when it comes to the natural world. We let it do what it wants and hope for the best. Today, we got to see some true natural beauty.

Here are some pictures of the day. I didn’t get very good photos of the actual eclipse with my phone, so no shots of that. Have a great day everyone!

 

Need Your Thoughts! Chapter One of First Draft

Hey all! This is the first draft of chapter one of the new book I’m working on. The book is called “Southern Defiance” and will revolve around growing up on a Southern plantation  in Charleston shortly before the Civil War. It will focus on the plantation owner’s son and his best friend, who happens to be a slave on the plantation.

I’d love to know if you would be interested after reading the first chapter. I have NOT edited, so you can ignore any errors. Thanks all!

Chapter 1, Draft 1 – Southern Defiance

1926

Arnie Jackson certainly had to give it to the man in front of him. Ninety years old and still moving around like a man of seventy. Of course, when you manage to amass a fortune like Joel Canton’s, life tended be a bit easier. Arnie attempted to help the old man sit in his chair, but there was no need. Mr. Canton handled it just fine. It was hot out, as Charleston usually was in July, but Canton didn’t seem to notice. He just sipped his tea and watched the people on the street walk by, as he had been doing for decades.

Arnie, on the other hand, was not from the South. He was from New York and wasn’t very happy about being sent to South Carolina for this assignment, but his editor wanted him.

“You’re the only one he’ll talk to,” his boss told him.

“And why is that?” Arnie replied. There was nothing special about him, save that he liked cats. No man he knew actually liked cats. No man he knew who would admit it anyway.

Seeing the puzzled look on his face, his editor elaborated. “Bring Rayne.”

Rayne was Arnie’s longtime girlfriend. They had met at a rather progressive bar nine years before. They hit it off so well the first night that there was no courtship needed. Arnie brought her back to his apartment that night and, despite his underperforming that first time, she stayed with him. Her fidelity had been unwavering for all those years, as had his. Yet despite his multiple attempts to get Rayne to marry him, she always said no. She said there was no way it could work. You see, Rayne Adams was black.

So he brought Rayne with him. Brought her to the South, in the early 1900’s, to the state that fired the first shots, the state that first succeeded. He brought his black girlfriend to South Carolina. All so that Joel Canton would talk to him. The funny thing was that it worked.

“Mr. Jackson,” said Mr. Canton.

“Please,” Arnie stopped him, “I insist you call me Arnie.”

“Very well,” Mr. Canton replied, “but you’ll gave to call me Joel then.”

“Alright, Joel,” said Arnie. “I’d like to start with your background. You’re from Charleston, correct?”

“Oh yes,” Joel said with the wave of a hand, gesturing to some unknown place down the road. “I grew up on the Canton Plantation about five miles down the road there.”

“It was an indigo plantation, was it not?”

“It was,” relied Joel. “It was either that or rice in this climate. Father placed his bet on the wealthy wanting color in their fabrics. He made the right bet.”

“Mr. Canton,” said Arnie, “you are one of the wealthiest men in America. How did you get from Charleston, South Carolina, to the inner circles of power in the country?”

Joel Canton set his tea down and stood. He looked down at the street then walked back into the house. Arnie wondered if he had said something to upset the old man, but he heard him coming back a few seconds later. When he returned he had a bottle of what looked like whisky in his hand. He tipped a generous amount into his tea and then into Arnie’s. Joel sat back down and took a long sip. Staring down the road, towards where he said the plantation was, he shook his head.

“I reckon it’s time for a few stories to be told,” he said. “Some confessions to be made.”

Arnie got out his pen and pad. He had known Joel Canton for only a few days, but this was the first time he had seen him become so serious. Usually he was lighthearted, always armed with a joke. He flirted shamelessly with Rayne on their first night there, but Arnie didn’t mind. He was just happy Mr. Canton was happy. Now, though, he could see the mood shifting.

“Confessions?” Arnie asked.

“My memory is pretty good and I very much hate lying,” Joel said. “This story starts in 1855. And 1836. Well, I guess in 1861 as well. You’re going to have to bear with me here.

And so began the most incredible story. A story so remarkable that if Arnie hadn’t seen the proof and the sheer look of truth in the old man’s eyes, he would never have believed it. The story that Mr. Joel Canton told to Arnie Jackson and Rayne Adams over the next few weeks would astound them. By the time the tale was over, Arnie knew he wouldn’t be working for the paper much longer. No, he was going to write a book and make millions. Here, friends, is Arnie’s story about the life of Joel Canton.

White People Should Stay Silent?

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(Photo Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

It won’t happen often, but I want to deviate away from the normal type of blog posting to discuss some current events. We all know what is going on in Charlottesville, VA. White Supremacists have proven once again that they have a strong support group and are willing to commit violence to back their cause. Full disclosure: I am a white liberal and not at all a Donald Trump supporter. This post will not go into politics. I want to talk about the anger some, and I stress the word some, black people have towards white people right now and give my take on it.

I’m active on Twitter, but I try not to get goaded into any crazy Tweet battles. Unfortunately, I have seen many posts from some black people who are angry about whites using the hastag #ThisIsNotUs, or similar expressions, in their efforts to disavow the supremacists. Here is just one of many examples I have come across.

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As I started to look around Twitter for similar themes, I was met with a barrage of similar responses. Unfortunately, they did not offer a common solution. Some blacks expressed outrage like the one above and some said that whites are responsible for everything and we are not owning up to it. Therefore, they conclude, we should not speak out. Ignoring the logical fallacy of statements like that, I want to discuss their argument.

I taught high school history, so I wish they wouldn’t presume to think all whites do not understand. While I’m not black, we share a common history. My history was just on the other side. To say that I can never reach a point of understanding that will satisfy you is basically saying there is no hope for the future. So, let me, as a white guy, tell you what I do understand.

I understand that our slavery began in the 1600s and was the most brutal, long lasting institution the US has ever used. I understand that it was not ever humane, no matter how well some people claim slaves were treated. Slavery is never humane. I understand that whites in this country fought to keep slavery long after every other global community disowned it, but I also know that whites fought hard on the other side to rid our country of the horror.

I understand that slavery ended in 1865, but it ended in name only. Oppression was just getting started at that point. I understand that the end of Reconstruction in the South opened the way for Jim Crow laws, Black Codes, and the most incredibly inhumane treatment of people that was possible. Lynching, dragging behind horses, torture. And that’s just the physical treatment. I understand the KKK was and still is the worst hate group this country has produced and that whites could have ended this at any time, if they wanted. If they had the collective will. They didn’t. While not all were extreme racists, most though of blacks as inferior.

I understand that it took the incredible bravery of a generation of black Americans to begin the change that we have yet to complete. I understand there were many camps in the Civil Rights Movement, and I do understand why they were all necessary. Martin Luther King and Malcom X vastly differed in their approach, but both men’s methods were born of a long, weary road of pain. I understand but cannot comprehend the courage it took Oliver Brown to muster to sue and overturn Plessy v Ferguson, one of the worst decisions in our Supreme Court’s history. I understand but cannot fathom the earth shattering fear those nine girls must have experienced walking through the doors of Little Rock Central High School.

I understand that we’ve reached a tipping point once again and I understand why.

I grew up white, not black, but I know that every black person faces things that I will never face. Walking into a store, they will be watched closer than me. White people may cross the street to walk on the other side when they see a young black man coming towards them. Entire black communities try to survive day after day without their men because the laws in this country, created almost solely by white men, have incarcerated them at incredibly high rates, causing irreparable systemic damage. Single black mothers fight for their children, only to see society often treat them as lesser. I’ve personally seen teachers make the mistake of presuming a black child can’t possibly know as much as a white one and I’ve seen a group of black girls at a church event get called the “n” word by a group of white boys as those boys rode by in their jacked up truck. I couldn’t find the words to say to apologize to those girls, but I know they will never forget that.

I’ll wrap this up because I know this is getting long. My point is this – I will not stay silent and I don’t care who gets mad at me, white or black people. Don’t presume to understand me and what I know. I’ll listen to you and you listen to me. We beat this together, not divided. Trust me, there are plenty of white people like me. It’s just a loud minority that’s making noise right now, and we’ll see it fixed.

Reading Across the Genres

I think we all know how important reading is for our writing. I am willing to say that there is no way you will ever become a successful writer if you aren’t also an avid reader. What I want to open is a discussion on is the importance of reading multiple genres.

I had a hard enough time switching my writing style from technical academic research writing to fiction. Dialogue was an absolute pain for me to get down. The only writing I had done up to four years ago was purely for my college and research career. I wasn’t aided by the fact that science fiction was my only reading genre. I used to read only science fiction. Seriously, that was it.

As I mentioned a few blog posts ago, I have been gone for a while. I’ve been doing a ton of research and have outlined approximately four books that I am beginning to work on. During my time away, something magical happened. I began to read everything.

Genres

Over the last four years I have read everything except science fiction. Don’t get me wrong, sci-fi is my first love, but I am now in an open relationship with many other genres (to the complete dismay of sci-fi). I have read romance, fantasy, horror, suspense thrillers, LGBT, and young adult books across the spectrum. I have read books from the most basic, easy to read, to challenging brain-burners. From 200 pages to 1400.

I can absolutely guarantee that my writing has improved five-fold since then and it has everything to do with my new reading experiences. I have gone back and looked at some of the stuff I was writing four and five years ago. While it wasn’t horrible, it is nowhere near what I am producing now. Thanks to these last few years of massive reading consumption, over 250 books, I have been introduced to new worlds, new words, and new wisdom.

We all get stuck reading certain types of books. We have our favorites. We know what mine was. Your favorite might be everything Charlaine Harris and all things supernatural. Maybe you love Danielle Steel. Stephen King versus Dean Coontz. It is okay to have a favorite, but it’s time to challenge yourself to try something new.

I haven’t even discussed those who think reading fiction is a waste of time. These types stick to non-fiction books such as histories and biographies. This is a complete disservice to your brain. Non-fiction is essential as well, but it won’t stretch your creativity as much as fiction.

As writers, we have to do everything we can to improve our skills. Reading is the absolute best way to expand our vocabulary. Reading across genres helps us evaluate the styles used and take what works for us. How can you write a love scene for your kickass bank thief if you’ve never read a proper romance novel? If you intend to target and conquer the huge and ever expanding young adult market, you’ll never do so if you aren’t well read in the YA genres. They have their own style and pace.

If you already read across genres, help me out. Has it helped your writing? Leave me some comments. If you don’t yet read multiple genres, tell me what’s holding you back.

ALSO – tell me what your favorite genre is! We all have one, so let’s admit it. Like I said, I fall back on science fiction when I need some comfort.

I challenge you to go out today and buy a book that you know you wouldn’t normally buy. Give it a chance. Write a review for it. You might find you enjoyed getting out of your comfort zone.

A Southern Gay, Coming Out

Hello I Am Gay words on a nametag sticker to come out as a homos

I’m gay. Most people won’t ever have to say those words. Unfortunately, that means that most people can never understand the feelings and emotions that go behind having to say them. I’m writing this because it’s time for me to actually say who I am to everyone, regardless of what you may think. What anyone may think is frankly irrelevant to me at this point. I’m going to tell you a story and I’m going to get personal. Many of you have been with me for parts of this story, some have not.

I realized I was gay when I was twelve years old. That realization hit me one night as I was lying in bed. I remember thinking, “Oh no, I’m what they call gay.” All I knew at that point was that “gay” was bad. It had to be. When I was a kid, the only time I heard the word gay was when it was used to describe disgust with something. “That’s so gay,” is a phrase that was, and still is, commonly used. Now, keep in mind that it was 1998 and acceptance towards all things LGBTQ has come a long way since then. Also, I was born and raised in South Carolina. I love South Carolina. It is my home. But, most southern states aren’t exactly known for their acceptance on this subject.

So, a 12 year old who now knows he likes other boys. Was I particularly attracted to anyone? Not that I know of. How did I know I was gay? I just did. A very good, and very straight, friend of mine asked me that.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“It’s simple,” I replied. “How do you know you like women?”

“Touche,” was his reply.

At this point I need to say that this is absolutely not a choice I made for myself. It was made for me before I was born. I didn’t like girls then suddenly decide to like guys. That’s not how it works. I am simply attracted to guys. Think about it. Why would someone intentionally make a choice that would bring this much pressure on them for their entire lives? This is not something people choose.

So, I was in middle school and just beginning to develop friendships that were real. Most of the friends I made in the eighth grade are still my closest friends. To this day, I cling to them for my support. I even tried to date one of my friends when we were 13 or 14. She was my first attempt at a cover up.

As close as we all were, I still never told them I was gay. I didn’t tell anyone then. I was beginning to master the art of pushing that part of me down. As much as I would have liked to sing along to the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, I didn’t dare. I just pretended that Britney Spears was the hottest thing on earth. Hit me baby one more time. The eighth grade was also when I realized I had certain qualities that were “good” that could outweigh this “bad” quality I had. I realized that I could be a leader and excel academically. Though I didn’t know I was doing it at the time, I began the steps to try and be perfect at everything I did so that when it was eventually found out that I was gay, it would be forgiven because of all the great things I had done.

The high school transition went well. I joined JROTC, which turned out to be a haven for me. If there is ever a program in high school that can develop leadership potential, JROTC is it. I was awarded driller of the year one year and athlete of the year the next. I eventually rose to become the commander of the entire unit my senior year. My grades were good and I took college classes my senior year so I would have a head start. All of this, remember, in the name of striving for perfection. Another kind of cover up.

I had three girlfriends in high school. None of them mattered to me as they were all just cover ups. The last one was sophomore year and after her I decided I was through with that. It became too much pressure to do something with them that I wasn’t ever going to enjoy. It was also sophomore year that I came out to the first person.

I remember sitting in the hallway with her after school waiting for who knows what event. I’m not sure why I decided to tell her. I think I just needed to tell someone and we were quite close at that point. I told her I had something to tell her but it took me several minutes to work up the nerve. I couldn’t force the words out of my throat. They seemed to be stuck down in my stomach. Somehow, after a few agonizing moments, I managed to say it. She couldn’t have cared less. Let me tell you, it was a relief to finally tell someone. I finally had an outlet to explain all of the things I had been feeling. I could tell her about the crush I had (the first real crush I had). Just being able to talk to someone about being gay relieved some of the pressure that was really starting to build inside of me.

I’m not sure the order in which I told the next few people. I do know that I came out face to face with only females. Something happened during my senior year made me mad, but turned out to be a blessing. One of those female friends took it upon herself to tell some of our male friends. I went into an immediate panic until I called my male friends one by one and they all had the same response – “Who cares?” All of my friends knew me for who I was and that is all that mattered. They didn’t care that I was gay and I loved them for it.

By now you are probably asking yourself, “What about his family? Did he tell his parents?” No, I didn’t. While I can never fully explain why I didn’t tell them then, I will try to sum up what I’m sure goes through the minds of many gay boys and girls at this point.

  • What will they think?
  • How can I tell them they won’t have grandkids?
  • I don’t want to have to explain why I have these feelings because I just do.
  • What are my options if they don’t understand or think it’s not a choice?
  • Am I ready for this?

That last question is almost always going to be answered with a “no.” I really did intend to tell my parents. They are truly wonderful people. They are, and always have been, fantastic parents. They never gave me any reason to believe that they would be mad about this or not accept me. It is just something about taking that final step and telling them that terrified me to no end. So, I put it off. I made a deal with myself – I would tell them when I graduated high school. Unfortunately, I had to re-negotiate that deal. Graduation came around and I didn’t tell them. My new deal was that I would tell them when I got a boyfriend or when I graduated college.

So, enter college. I stayed close to home and even lived at home the first semester, though I moved into an apartment with some of my close friends shortly after college started. I enjoyed college, especially after I changed majors. I was in honor societies and went to many conferences. I loved my field of study. Unfortunately, I was never “out.” You would think that college would be the perfect place to find someone; to live a lifestyle where I could be myself. The problem was that I still hadn’t told my parents, the people that matter most to me. How could I be “out” at a local college without them finding out. Those were my thoughts anyway. Also, South Carolina. It’s not like I magically transported out of the South. So, I never had a boyfriend in college.

College graduation rolled around and I still didn’t tell my parents. At this point it became one of those long lies. You know, the ones that you know you’ve waited too long to tell the truth, so you figure it is just better to keep the lie going.

I graduated right when the market collapsed. Finding a job, at least one that I wanted, proved difficult. After lazing around playing video games for about a year, I went back to school for my master’s degree. I still didn’t tell them after I finished that. Mind you, I am 26 at this point in the story. Still not living as the person I truly was. The emotional toll of keeping all of this hidden from the wider world was bearing down on me in ways I didn’t fully understand at the time.

Many of you know the details of what has happened in the five years since, so I won’t go in depth here. My parents do know now and are my greatest advocates. I feel whole. I’m 31 years old and finally starting the process of searching for someone I can be happy with. The prospect of dating both terrifies and excites me. Nobody in my life has rejected me because of this. In fact, it has made us all closer.

If you are reading this and are gay but haven’t come out, I can’t tell you what to do or how to live your life. What I can tell you is that if you make the choice to keep this inside, you will be doing damage to yourself that you won’t even realize until a tragedy happens. As human beings, we aren’t meant to be someone we’re not. We can’t pretend that deeply. The sadness becomes overwhelming. You will end up feeling alone even if you’re surrounded by a hundred people. If you can’t get to the point where you are able to come out to the masses, find one person you can tell. It will lighten the load a bit and give you an outlet. It’s a start. You do NOT have to be alone. You can find support in various places that I will link to in this blog. Search for help somewhere if you ever feel overwhelmed. If you ever feel like you need to hurt yourself, tell someone. If there is nobody in your life you can tell, try the Crisis Text Line or this hotline.

Thing have gotten better, though I’m worried the current administration will undo much of the hard work. If I choose to do so, I can get married. It’s not abnormal to see gay couple on TV. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is gone, though we’ll see for how long. My point is that all of this is getting better. Had I been a teenager right now I think I would have had a much easier time.

This will be the first of many posts describing the things that I went through and what I will go through as I move forward. Remember, this is a part of who I am. I will never deny it again as I move forward.  Subscribe and check back here for future posts on everything from writing to my take on political news. Thank you so much for reading!

Resources

PFLAG is a great resource for parents and friends of gays and lesbians. It has resources for LGBTQ people, family members seeking ways to help and cope, as well as sources for friends of LGBTQ.

Human Rights Campaign has a great page for helping people come out to their family, friends, and coworkers.

The LGBT National Help Center gives resources and support for LGBTQ no matter your age.

Need advice coming out? Try clicking here for videos and resources.

Of course, The Trevor Project reaches far and wide with its support and resources for the LGBTQ community.

By far one of the most inspirational people in the community right now it Troye Sivan. Check out his coming out video from a few years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Types Of Bad Book Reviews And What To Do About Them

 

picard_ashamed Picard got a bad review on a Captain’s log entry

We’ve all chimed in on this topic and there are differing opinions on how to handle it when it happens. What do you do about bad reviews? This is a tough question to answer. In fact, it doesn’t have one answer. It depends on the situation. Unfortunately, receiving a bad review sets off a chain of emotional responses that don’t lead to clear thinking. Especially for self-published authors, because they rely so heavily on reviews and having just one negative one can hurt sales in the beginning of a book’s life. Let’s start by exploring the types of bad reviews and how I would respond to them.

The I bought the book by accident – Yes, people leave bad reviews for books if they bought it and didn’t mean to. They probably don’t think about the consequence of their review.

How to respond – Leave a reply offering to refund their money.

The it’s not my genre – These people bought the book, apparently not reading the description. Not sure how it happens, but they still leave the one star review.

How to respond – I would be tempted to ask why they bought it in the first place, but I would hold back. I’m not going to offer to refund this person. Tough break on the review.

The grammar and spelling complainer – Let’s face it, there will be errors in our work and someone will find them. Some of the people that find the errors will let you know about it, though they may sprinkle it in at the end of a decent review of the overall book.

How to respond – Thank them for pointing out the error (chances are we already knew about it) and let them know you have corrected it. Don’t offer money back on this one.

The this story doesn’t make sense or the flow is off – This type of review is probably legit. Sometimes the organization of our books makes sense to us, but not to the readers. If one notices, chances are that others have as well.

How to respond – I would thank them for reading and letting me know about their concerns. That’s it. At this point, there’s nothing we can do about this type of complaint.

The dreaded, this is a self-published author and it shows – Some people just do NOT like self-published authors, so whether the work is good or not, they will find a way to point out you are self-published. They may be right. Certainly there is less professionalism overall in the indie scene. Face it, teenagers going through love spells can publish a book. They may also be wrong and chose to leave a bad review simply because it’s self-published.

How to respond – Thank them for reading and let them know you are working to improve your work daily. They’ll feel like they did a good thing and you come off as a decent person. 

The I know this author and they are horrible review – Ever pissed someone off in your lifetime? Will anyone be envious of the fact that there’s a book out there with your name on it? They might very well leave a bad review just to get back at you. If they drop to the level of actually slandering you personally, it really hurts.

How to handle it – Don’t respond, especially if you know or suspect it’s from someone you know. They will make you eat any response you leave, even if you respond positively. They may even hunt out other places to slander your book if they know they got your attention. If I see a review like this for a book I’m scouting, I always find the author more dignified for not responding.

*One caveat – If the reviewer says something like, “This author hits puppies,” and the review gains traction or gets a response from other people thinking about buying your book, you should probably respond. Do it calmly and politely, explaining the situation. Address it once on the review site and then maybe on your social networks. That’s all you can do. Unless you really hit puppies. Then I hope you lose your house.

The this book sucked review – This person hated the book from top to bottom and it’s clear from the review that nothing will change their mind. Maybe the content sparked their little fingers to chop your book, maybe it was the fact that they didn’t like your name. You may never know.

How to handle it – I think this one should be left alone. It’s not your fault they didn’t like it, so don’t offer them their money back. Responding to a review like this would likely provoke another response from the reviewer that will make you look dumb. It’s like when I was teaching – as soon as I engaged a student in an argument, I lost no matter what the outcome was.

No matter what, if we see a bad review pop up, we’re going to hate it. We spend so much time getting our books ready to publish and are so proud when it finally hits the shelves (digital or otherwise) that hearing someone didn’t like it hits us in the gut. We get attached to our characters, so an attack on them it like an attack on our siblings. Heck, I recently got slammed on Reddit for my ideas about women writing science fiction. What I thought was a completely thoughtful blog post actually pissed some people off. That bothered me! I want everyone to love what I write, but I do admit that we can learn from bad review, especially constructive ones. It just sucks to get the bad review.

Bad reviews will happen and often we had nothing to do with the reasons. Many times the people leaving the bad reviews simply don’t think about the damage they could be doing. We have to live with it. Ultimately it is up to you to formulate your response plan, but be careful and think first. Let the review sit in your mind overnight before you choose to respond or not. No matter what, we should always work to improve our work. Also, as indies, we always need to help out our fellow self-pubbers

Have you gotten bad reviews? How did you handle them?

 

 

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Your Indie Author Mission Statement

Being a self-published author, or indie author, does not simply mean that you write books and hit the publish button. Without the power of a publisher behind them, indie authors are forced to become much more than just writers. They have to become business men and women. They need to have great communications and marketing skills and they have to be relentless in their quest to get their books seen.

Indie authors have to do it all. There is no outside help. Sure they can, and should, hire an editor, but that comes at their own expense. They have to develop, or at least hire someone to develop, a quality cover. Another expense that a traditional publisher would normally cover.

You know what it sounds like an indie author is? A business in itself. Yes, an indie author is a person, but that person is their own business. Does that make sense? Yes. Okay, so now what?

Indie authors have to treat every day like a business day. They need a plan and they need to stick with it if they want to be successful. They need goals and they have to keep producing. They need quality material that never wavers and they need to gain and keep their readers. Treating it like a business will ultimately lead to success. What constitutes success for an indie? I wrote about the differing meanings of success for indie authors. Success depends on the author. Ultimately, though, it means having your books read and making a little money for it. It’s a business. You know what all businesses have? A mission statement.

What is a mission statement?

Mission statements are used in many different fields. Business, education, law enforcement, and churches. They provide for their stakeholders, or many times shareholders, to see that the organization has a clear direction with goals and growth in mind. They provide the employees or members of the organization with a constant reminder of the reasons for what they are doing. They usually discuss the values of that organization and try to distinguish themselves from the competition. Here are some examples of mission statements from various fields:

McDonalds CorporationMcDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.

Google Inc.Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Columbia University – Columbia University is one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the university to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

And here is one from a field more closely related to us…

Pelican Publishing CompanyPelican Publishing Company has been committed to publishing books of quality and permanence that enrich the lives of those who read them since 1926. With a backlist of more than 2,000 titles, Pelican produces art and architecture books, travel guides, holiday books, local and international cookbooks, motivational and inspirational works, business titles, children’s books, and a growing number of social commentary and history titles.

Even though those four mission statements come from different types of organizations, they all have common themes. They tell the stakeholders what they do and where they are going. Google is the exception. They followed their usual minimalist approach and stuck with a simple, yet powerful, sentence. It still tells you what they do and is probably more along the lines of what Sir Richard Branson would like to see from a mission statement.

Do you know any indie author with a mission statement? I don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t any with one, but I still haven’t seen them. As we strive to make self-published authors more respected, I think this could be a huge step in the right direction. We are all our own business, so we might all have different mission statements, but it will help. We will have something that tells people who we are, what we do, and where we are going. It will provide a promise to us and our readers. It will be a promise of quality and commitment. Does this mean that we can only focus on the indie scene? Heck no. Most of us have other jobs or are father and mothers. That still doesn’t change the value of having a mission statement.

Here’s my first draft:

Allen Watson is a self-published author dedicated to creating quality content for his readers. He has experience in politics, education, law enforcement, and emergency medicine and is an avid science fiction fan. He hopes to use his experiences and passions to write works that will engage a global audience and allow them to explore new worlds and ideas. Allen wants his work to inspire readers to become creators and allow their imaginations to run wild.

I’m going to print this out and tape it to my computer so I see it everyday. I’m going to put it on my blog under its own heading. I want people to take me seriously because I take my work seriously. I’ve written before about gaining respect from readers, and this is another way to do that. Professionalize yourself and it will transform to your work. If self-published authors work hard to ensure that they put forth nothing but quality work and they stick to a strong value system that their readers can appreciate, we will all be better off. At some point the people that refuse to read any self-published work will realize that they are really missing out on some good reading and the publishers will have to transform their methods even more than they already have. 

Don’t worry about making your mission statement perfect right away. Heck, I’ll probably change mine at some point. Just be sure to make one. Take a minute and do it now on a scratch piece of paper. You’ll discover something about yourself in the process.

mission-statement

Please share your mission statements in a comment!

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