Having Trouble Defining Your Specialty? How To Determine What Makes You An Original

Struggling to pinpoint a blog niche? Grappling with how to present yourself to editors or clients? Still looking to settle on one particular area of expertise, but unsure of where you really shine?

Even those of us who have clear obsessio-… — oops! I mean passions — (in my case, the publishing industry and… um… cats) can have a blind spot when it comes to our own strengths.

If you’re thinking of starting a blog, but don’t know what to write about… if you’re struggling with pitching yourself to others… if you want to build a business, but are having trouble figuring out what, exactly, that business should entail… it could help to ask yourself the following questions.

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How To Market The Crap Out Of Yourself

I recently watched a video by very talented lady Marie Forleo, in which she touted the importance of marketing above all other things — even more important than product.

Say what?

Come on. It makes perfect sense. As Forleo pointed out, you can have the most high-quality product in the world but, unless people know about it, your business is sunk.

Many of us dread marketing as a necessary evil. I know I did. I wanted nothing more than to just practice my art. But recently, I found myself in the middle of some great brainstorming sessions, and I also had a blast writing up my marketing plan. And now? I’m eager to finally put that plan into action.

Have you written up a marketing plan yet? Why not!? Even if you’re not launching a fancy-pants career coaching practice or consulting business, your freelance business could still benefit. And it’s not scary at all! I swear!

Here. I’ll walk you through it.

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Getting It Done


[Photo via]

I’ve been feeling a little anxious lately. I commute into an office three days a week now, leaving a lot less time for my other projects. I have a major magazine piece I’ve been meaning to tie up for months (this is what happens when my deadline gets extended). I’ve been struggling with a project outline for another client, stressing out about getting it wrong. And Christmas has sort of snuck up on me. There are still gifts to be bought, other gifts to be wrapped, cookies to be baked, and cards to be sent. All within the next week. Not only that, but I’m already feeling burnt out, and I have major problems with procrastination.

Yesterday, I talked to my mentor coach about procrastination, motivation, and low energy levels. I told her how I tend to put off large projects, intimidated by their scope, telling myself that there’s still time, yet feeling heart palpitations every time I think about the fact that they’re unfinished. Then, once I finally tackle the project (in the eleventh hour, of course), I’m blown away by how easy it is, wondering over how I had been worrying all this time about nothing. (Miraculously, using this tactic has never caused me to miss a deadline.) I tell her how I wish I could get things done early, instead of causing myself undue stress over an extended period of time. I tell her about my low energy levels. My exhaustion. My CFS. We brainstorm.

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InternInc: LinkedIn for the Student Set

interninc logo

I have to admit. I usually mark most of the press releases that pop up in my inbox as spam. After all, I’m of the mind that these typically untargeted e-mails are just as insidious as the random penile enhancement e-mails my spam folder actually catches.

But then I received an e-mail about InternInc — a new social networking site that touts itself as “Facebook meets LinkedIn for students, employers and universities” — and I was intrigued. I’ve always thought that internships were invaluable for gaining experience, making connections, and trying out new industries commitment-free, and a social networking site that connected students with established internship programs sounded, well, genius.

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Telecommuting to Class


For several years now, I have believed that office environments are breeding grounds for time suckage, that commuting creates wasted hours, and that telecommuting is the most efficient way to get shit done.

So why is it that I’ve been so reluctant to switch from the in-person, traditional classroom to online learning?

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Ready for Your Elevator Pitch?


Today marks for first day of ProBlogger’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, which I joined in on because, well, frankly, I’ve been losing focus with Freelancedom lately.

I mean, my posts have been coming more sporadically and, when I do post, I worry that my content is too writer-centric (are there any non-writers reading this blog?).

Which is why I was thrilled that the first task of the month was to develop an elevator pitch for your blog.

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Nothing To Do With Luck

I’ve been blogging about booze and four-leaf clovers over at Modern Materialist today, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. And all those clover images have got me thinking about luck. And how freelance success has nothing to do with it.

Hear me out.

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When Interview Subjects Go AWOL

Ever have one of those days where every step of a project feels like pulling teeth?

For me, this usually occurs when I’m working on one of my dating advice columns for Nerve. First, it takes me eons to find enough people willing to participate. And then, when I feel as if I’ve finally overcome all hurdles, and am on the home stretch, my interviewees miss the deadline I’ve given them, or balk at supplying everything they originally agreed to, or just plain flake out.

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10 Things I Did Wrong In 2008


2008 started out strong. I was finishing up an internship at Material Media (of Nerve and Babble fame), and gearing up to take on more hours at the New York Sun. And then I was chosen to be a blogger for Modern Materialist.

Soon after that, I realized that — only six months after leaving my full-time job in academic book publishing — I had matched my previous salary. I reveled in my blogging gig, was content with my regular copy editing gig at the Sun, and was also doing freelance work for several book publishers. I even got the occasional writing clip. I began planning for more.

I continued my self-education, and began blogging about blogging for Smarter Than Your Average Blog (a gig I eventually left behind). I also began considering a path toward career coaching, and career-related writing. I did extensive research and conducted informational interviews. I was all set to enter a certification program when everything went to hell.

The Sun folded, and the rest of the industry (not to mention the economy at large) followed suit. I no longer had the income necessary to sign up for a coaching certification program. I floundered trying to figure out whether or not I was cut out for freelancing, and what I even had to offer. I struggled unsuccessfully to find a part-time job in the publishing field.

I’ve since gotten a number of new clips (see here, here, here, and here), but I have yet to take advantage of the momentum, and suffer from mood swings and lack of motivation. Can I turn things around in 2009? Perhaps. If I’m willing to learn from my mistakes.

After the jump, 10 things I did wrong in 2008:

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5 Things I Learned About Business Management While Christmas Shopping

Okay, you’ve caught me. Freelancedom has been quiet lately, aside from a couple of product placement posts. Aside from the fact that I’m obsessed with Christmas, I feel as if everything has come due at the same time. Suddenly, I’ve had articles to complete, blogger applications to read through, end-of-year posts to plan, copy editing tests to complete, test drive posts to do up…I’ve been a stressed-out mess!

Conversely, I haven’t succumbed to holiday season stress at all. Indulging in Christmasy things is like a respite for me, and not one bit of it has been done begrudgingly (though I did lose a huge chunk of my life just in stringing up the lights on two Christmas trees).

Perhaps I should have applied my holiday prep tactics to my business practices. After the jump, 5 things I learned about business management while Christmas shopping:

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