ProWritingAid. What Is It and How Does It Help? Weekly Blog Post #7

ProWritingAid. What Is It and How Does It Help? Weekly Blog Post #7

Hello again! Saturday is here, which means it’s time for another blog post! Before I begin, I will say this week may be shorter than usual, because I’ve been on vacation! Let me tell you now – I needed a break. The escape from reality came as a welcome relief. Yet, I still finished some writing! Those of you who tuned in last week know I’ve given myself a deadline with my novel. I set myself a minimum requirement of 700 words a day (not as crazy as NaNoWriMo) and I am plodding along. Draft 2 of my novel will be ready on time!

In my endeavours this week, I discovered a tool called ProWritingAid. I’m enjoying using it so much, I thought I would share it with you today! Let’s discuss!

What is ProWritingAid?

ProWritingAid is an application for Windows and Mac (with a web editor too), that sells itself as being your personal writing coach. It is like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor, but more catered toward novelists instead of article writing. I downloaded the 14-day free trial and my writing now shines. ProWritingAid picks up on little things, such as missing punctuation, incorrect grammar use and passive voice. It also goes that extra mile and suggests stronger adjectives if there is room for any. There’s a built-in thesaurus, the ability to study overused words and phrases, and the tool can even point out cliches in your text or dialogue. Also, you can compare these to the averages shown in published text! You can see, for example, if your writing has an insane amount of adverbs compared to what agents accept. ProWritingAid is comprehensive and by far, my favourite writing assistant tool.

How does ProWritingAid help?

I established before the uses of ProWritingAid, but how does it help your writing? The tool doesn’t make a writer out of you. Only words on paper can do that! Yet I find it’s a great tool to challenge your work. Don’t rely on it. If you do, if you make every change suggested, then your work will lose value. Remember, ProWritingAid is an AI and isn’t always correct. However, if you challenge your work, then you can pick up on small things that will then lead you to saying:

“I can do this a little better.”

In other words, don’t let ProWritingAid hold your hand and lead you to water, allow it to point you in the right direction.

Photo by Bri Schneiter on Pexels.com

That’s all I have to say on ProWritingAid today! We didn’t go too in depth, however, check out the website HERE for a more thorough look and give ProWritingAid a go yourself! Remember, even though the best help comes from a real beta reader, or editor, we can still get a little help on the way!

Thanks for reading this weekly blog post and apologies again that this instalment is shorter than usual. I am focusing on my novel right now and I’ve been on vacation! There haven’t been too many fresh developments this week. Though thanks for tuning in as usual and be sure to subscribe to my email, check out ProWritingAid, and check back next week for more!

Thanks!

I’m Taking A Step Back from Freelancing – Weekly Blog Post # 6

(But only for a little while)

You heard it folks! The title says it all! For the next few weeks, I am stepping back from freelance writing! No more clients, no more money on the side, no fast turn-arounds.Why? There’s a simple explanation…

I gave my upcoming novel a deadline!

…And do I regret it?

Absolutely!

Join me today, as for the first time in these weekly blogs, we talk about creative writing!

Why Having Deadlines is Important in Creative Writing.

Deadlines give structure. It’s true! In fact, my entire novel started with a huge deadline (Those of you who have read my NaNoWriMo Series know what’s up). My baby — yep, that’s what I’m calling my novel — started as a challenge in 2019. The challenge? Write 50,000 words in one month. That’s 1,667 words a day for an entire month! One of the most difficult things I ever did, but I did it! How? It’s quite simple: I knew where my novel needed to be by the end of the month. I had a goal to work toward and that got me into a routine. I wrote in the car, on the bus, at work…

The result? Terrible.

I’m not kidding!

Have you ever heard of the phrase word vomit? It’s when you spit out text without stopping, without editing, moving as fast as possible. That’s what NaNoWriMo was for me. The 50,000 words I had written were hard to read, without structure and a cause of carpal tunnel in my fingers. Yet, I had a story and once the challenge had finished, the crafting process could begin.

So here we are now, almost a year later. How does my novel look today? It looks good! It’s not perfect, but it’s not trying to be. In fact, rather than making draft #2 shine, I’m focusing on collating my ideas so that my story flows. I want my readers to have a clear-defined beginning, middle and end. I want them to be able to join my characters on their journey without plot-holes or discrepancies. Something my NaNoWriMo draft (or draft #1) was filled with. I’ve got around five more chapters to go through, but I’ve slotted my baby in with a consultant on August 31st 2020. A second deadline.

 Once again, I have a month. This time, not to write 50,000 words, but to finish my story. In doing this, I’ve put a bit of pressure on myself – the part I regret. Yet, when I achieve that goal on August 31st, can you imagine how proud I’ll be? It’ll be a really good feeling!

…But it’s Important Not to Rush.

When you have a deadline, it can be easy to rush. Don’t do it. These deadlines aren’t strict ones. It’s not like missing a coursework deadline and failing a class. It’s not like missing a freelance deadline and losing a customer. If I didn’t make my NaNoWriMo deadline last year, sure, I’d be one certificate less but I’d still have more words on paper than I did when I started. If I don’t provide the finished manuscript to my consultant on August 31st. Sure, I’d disappoint myself, but it’s not like my novel would fall into a volcano and cease to exist. By rushing, you’ll make a mess. I know this contradicts my word vomit paragraph, but that was different. I knew what I was writing then was bad. I planned to organise it. Yet, I don’t want to rush now and send a mess to my consultant, because it’s that my consultant will work with.

It’s okay to feel a little bit of pressure, but don’t let that pressure drive you.

The main reasons you have deadlines are for yourself. If you rush to make your deadline, you won’t feel as good as you did if you reached it with structure and discipline.

And that’s all there is to say on that!

By stepping back in freelancing, I am allowing more opportunity to work on my novel and thus, mitigating the chances of rushing to meet my deadline. I’m making sacrifices, yet I’m lucky. I’m lucky it’s the only sacrifice I have to make.

Some people with more responsibility have a tough time of it.

In fact, I am going to recommend a video game! A small, indie game developed by Orthogonal Games back in 2013 called The Novelist. It’s only about two hours long, but if you have time, give it a go! It’s all about the pressures involved in writing and maintaining loved ones, whilst getting work to your agent on time. It’s quite an eye-opening experience, showing the difficulties of being a writer.

Writing a novel isn’t easy.

I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again.It’s easy to glorify it, to think you’ll sit down and tell a story in a few months. Yet, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I’m sure other writers can relate. For the longest time, the end wasn’t in sight. That can be demotivational.

Think of it as an investment.

Chip away at your novel, give yourself milestones on the way and like a film you’re anticipating, or a holiday you’re looking forward to, you’ll get there.

Don’t rush and by the end, you’ll have something beautiful.

…And that’s all we have time for today folks! Join me again next week for another weekly update! Remember, to comment about your own experiences with making deadlines, to like this post and subscribe via email!

Until then — take care!

3 Quick Tips to Make a Blog Interesting – Weekly Blog Post #5

3 Quick Tips to Make a Blog Interesting – Weekly Blog Post #5

Nobody cares about this post. Nobody anticipates it and nobody is eager to get their hands on the next one. You know what? It’s okay! I have no false illusions otherwise. Yet, why do I persevere? Why don’t I give up and do something more worthwhile?

My friends, there’s a simple answer.

Writing is a business.

Writing is no different than the corporations you see when you walk down the street. I’m serious! Do you think when those businesses started up, they were instant successes? In fact, the company I used to work at started in a basement. They’re worth millions today! All the same, my blog has little readers now, but I’m working toward a popular future with it. It might not happen. I’m not holding my head high in the sky about it, but you never know without trying right? You’ve all heard the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” You can apply it to what I’m doing here: by writing this blog, I am investing in myself.

Yet, even though we’re in the early days, that doesn’t mean my blog has to be boring. We can spice it up! I mean, if we don’t, we’ll never get those much-loved readers, will we? So how do we do that? Together. As Zig Ziglar once said, “You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.”

To bring in people, we need an interesting blog. Grab a cup of tea and together, we’ll figure out how to make one.

How do you make a blog interesting?

First, you have to be a fantastic writer, you need perfect grammar and spelling, you need a degree—

—Hang on that doesn’t sound right!

Having those traits helps, of course it does! Yet, even if I was a modern Shakespeare, nobody is going to read my blog if it’s boring! For example:

Today I woke up, I made a cup of tea with one sugar and I thought about going out, but I decided otherwise. I have friends coming over later. I’m looking forward to it.

Yawning yet? I know I am. You’ve not met me in person. You don’t need to know what my plans are and you don’t need to know how many sugars I have in my tea. You don’t care about that. Nobody but my family and close friends would.

With that in mind, what can you do to entice someone who hasn’t met you? How do you keep your readers coming back?

Give your readers a reason to read.

There it is. The simple answer. It’s cryptic, I know, but hear me out. The professional term for it is a call to action. As a reader, you want to take something away from this blog. For example, in this case, my call to action is that you’ll go away and work on your own blog with increased knowledge. It’s a subtle one. Not all call to actions have to be in your face. Knowing how many sugars I have in my tea won’t help you, but knowing to include a call of action in your blog will. The best part is, it doesn’t restrict what you can talk about. If I want to tell you how many sugars I have in my tea, I will, but I’ll also tell you what brand of tea I use and why you should consider using it too. There’s my call of action right there. It’s that easy!

Keep away from huge chunks of text.

When I work on my novel, I love a good paragraph. In fact, if a paragraph is too small, I will go back and flesh it out with more details about a scene. However, your blog isn’t a novel. Unlike a novel, most readers will open your blog, see a huge chunk of text and run for the horizon as fast as they can. Lots of text is intimidating. Keep your paragraphs short, sweet and throw in a picture here and there. Make your blog look easy to scroll through and your readers will do just that!

Involve your readers.

I’ve already given you a reason to read this blog and I’ve kept the contents organised and broken up, so you’re not intimidated by it. Next, I am going to involve you. A good blog will want to promote interactivity with the readers, because it makes it more welcoming.

You’re investing time into me by reading this blog and for that, I care about you. I want to hear what you have to say. So, comment below your opinions! Did you find this post helpful? Tell me! Is this post awful? Tell me! Do you have further advise? Tell me! This isn’t my blog; this is our blog. I want to build a business, but I want to learn while doing so! I want you guys to teach me, whilst I teach you. We can work together and in doing so, I’ll know you’ll keep coming back!

We’re all in this together!

To summarise:

Give your readers a reason to read, keep your ideas organised and get everyone involved!

I want you to check back next week and learn something new. In doing so, I hope you’ll come back the week after and the week after that. If you’re a returning reader, thanks again for checking out my page! If you’re a new reader — I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to seeing you next time!

Don’t forget to subscribe with your email if you want a notification every time I post! Click, click!

(A call to action AND involving you guys right there!)

Thanks again!

What to Do When a Customer Doesn’t Pay – Weekly Blog Post #4

What to Do When a Customer Doesn’t Pay – Weekly Blog Post #4

We’re home free after another long week! What did you guys get up to? Did you have a productive one? I know I did! Yet, I encountered my first customer who didn’t pay for a commission! Right?! It was only a matter of time. I should be angry, but you know what? I’m okay with it. It’s a learning curve on the journey of freelancing and it gives me something else to write about. Today, we’re going to discuss what YOU should do when you run into someone who refuses to pay.

First, we need to look at the reasons why a customer won’t pay. There are two main ones:

1. They’re not happy with the work you produce.

2. They’re crooks.

The first reason, luckily enough, is something I’ve not encountered yet. All my customers have been happy with my work. If they’re not and they’re honest customers, then it’s understandable why they won’t pay. They’ve come to you expecting a service and you haven’t produced it. Now, I’m not talking from experience here, but if I ever had this situation, I’d like to think I’d work with the customer. I mean, they hired you for a reason, right? Communicate with them, ask them why they’re not happy with the work, offer revisions — don’t give up! A decent customer wants decent work! Keep battling back and forth with them and you’ll eventually end up with something everyone is happy with.

Onto the meat of the article:

The Crooks.

These are the scoundrels that want to win one over on you. The criminals that had no intention to pay. Even if you produced content to match that of Hemingway! It was a crook who got in touch with me this week and this is what happened:

I put an ad out for my freelance services and not long after, the crook sent a message asking to hire me. At first, it thrilled me. New customers are always welcome. Yet, as I pushed them for details about what they wanted, they were — for want of a better word — elusive. It set off immediate alarms in my head. Most of my customers are pretty good at telling me exactly what they want, but the crook didn’t know what they were after. They wanted 500-1000 words in a certain niche, but that was it. No focus, no nothing. When I pushed them for further details, they didn’t reply. I considered the idea that their English wasn’t great, but they weren’t even trying. It’s almost as if they wanted an article from me, but they didn’t care about it. It put me off writing for them. I had a feeling the customer was going to pull a runner, so I dropped them to the bottom of my priority list.

As the week went on, I found myself with a bit of free time. The crook hadn’t bothered getting in touch with me again to chase the article, so I reached out to them. I messaged them and asked if they still wanted it. When they told me they did, I tried pushing them for details again, but once more; nothing. I decided at this point to do an experiment. I came up with an appealing title in their niche and I wrote their article. Crazy experiment, eh? Seriously. I finished the work and I sent it to them. Here’s the catch though:

I only spent 30 minutes on it.

Since the crook didn’t seem to care, because they were vague about what they wanted, I wrote the article quicker than a cheetah in a race. Don’t get me wrong, when I sent it to them, I offered revisions. If they turned out to be a serious customer, I wanted to provide my usual great service.

My intuition was right.

The crook said thank you, the article was great and that they’d pay me soon. SOON! A few days passed without any further communication, so I messaged them again chasing the matter and they didn’t reply. Of course, they didn’t. They’d taken the work and fled. Yet, joke’s on them because it wasn’t a piece I poured that much passion over.

It raises the question though, what happens now?

The article wasn’t bad by any means. I didn’t spend that much time on it, but because the customer refused to pay, I am taking it back and using it. When I write for my customers, I pass on all ownership to them. I ghostwrite. They don’t have to credit me, they can edit the article how they see fit, they can do what they want with it, it’s theirs.

Yet, since this customer didn’t pay, I’m now going to use their article as a sample piece to attract more customers. You should do the same too.

They lose all rights to the article. If I see it uploaded online, then I will bring out the full keyboard warrior on the website it’s on. Until then, it’s a new sample piece for the collection. No big deal.

What if you didn’t spend 30 minutes on the article? What if you poured your heart into it and had it stolen?

How can you ensure customers always pay?

There are various methods one can use. The most obvious? Have your customers sign a contract before you begin work. It makes it lawfully binding. The customer has to pay.

I don’t like doing this.

I want to be a welcome freelancer and contracts seem far too official for me. I like to keep matters as casual as possible with my clients. Y’know? The whole open-door policy and what not.

My secret is that I charge my customers a deposit.

Before I begin work, I ask my customers for 50% of the payment. Upon completion and after the final revision, I ask for the rest. I didn’t do this with the crook because they were dripping in red flags and I was testing the water. Naughty of me, I know. Yet it helps me learn!

Anyway, so I charge 50% upfront but only the first time a customer commissions me. If they pay in good time, I mark them as trusted on my end and stop asking for the deposit. Its works for me and I’ve never asked for a deposit more than once. This is a great solution to the problem! The crooks won’t reply when you ask for a deposit, or they’ll try to talk you out of it.

A real customer will be happy to pay a deposit. Especially if you explain to them why you are charging them. More so if they know you are trusted too. They can see this from customer reviews and a decent portfolio.

…And that’s my week! There are a few more things I’d like to have discussed today. My run in with the freelancer job board, getting a chance to work on my novel again, but this blog post will go on for about 2000 words. I don’t want that much of your time today. However, I do want to hear from you! Let me know in the comments about your experience with crooks and how you ensure they pay! Let’s have all our freelancing brains come together!

Otherwise, see you next week! I’ll tackle my run in with the freelancer job board then and another red-flag customer that showed up!

See you guys later!

Oceanbeat’s 88-Key Electronic Keyboard

E-Commerce Product Description Sample #1

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION:

Is your piano sounding a little out of shape? Does the sound no longer bounce off the walls like it did all those years ago? Fear not. We’ve got you covered!

Introducing Oceanbeat’s new 88-key electronic keyboard! A revolutionary design that both looks and sounds fantastic! Ideal for beginners and intermediate keyboardists alike!

This sensational instrument only exists because of you! Our best minds collaborating together. For real! We asked a selection of our customers what our products were missing and the 88-key electronic keyboard is the result:

  • 88 FULL size-keys that sound and feel like a miracle to play.
  • Powered by 6x 1.5vD batteries or by the mains.
  • A touchscreen LCD display, with over 100 tones to choose from.
  • Light up keys. Connect to our online database and download 1000s of songs, right to your keyboard!
  • Free carrying case with room for all of your songbooks and peripherals.
  • MIDI Input. Connect your keyboard to a computer/phone and use it like a synthesiser!

The Oceanbeat new 88-key electronic keyboard is one of a kind. Buy it now and you’ll find yourself never wanting to buy a piano again!

Daring of us to say, don’t you think? If this is the ultimate instrument what future does Oceanbeat have now?

Our future is in your hands!

We’re always striving to expand the music industry. With this new revolutionary instrument on shelf we’ll be turning to mobile!

Connect any compatible Oceanbeat keyboard to your phone and download our free app! You’ll receive lessons from top instructors that you can play right from your own home!

So what are you waiting for?! Be fearless!

Order your 88-key electronic keyboard now and we’ll also throw in our song book worth $49.99 free of charge!

We’re not kidding! This offer is one you won’t see again and it’s an amazing one at that!

Click here to buy now!

**This is a fictional company/product used for sample purposes** – Sam.

Word Counts & YouTube! – Weekly Blog Post #3

Word Counts & YouTube! – Weekly Blog Post #3

Another week is over and with that, it’s time for weekly blog post #3! Last Saturday, I mentioned word counts and how it’s important for blog posts. Today, I would like to explore that a little more. If you recall, I said that Google mark anything that’s less than 300 words as light on content, which is bad for SEO. What is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization and it’s the practice of fine-tuning your webpage so that it appears higher on seach engine lists, thus drawing in more traffic. I won’t go into too much detail as you can find a whole plethora of knowledge online about it. Let’s just say, if you know how to optimise your content for search engines, your website will shine for it!

Anyway, I digress! That isn’t the only reason word counts are important. They’re also necessary for your clients and that’s when writing freelance can get tough.

I’ve got a client who wants a 1000 word article written about a roll of stickers. Yep, you heard me. A roll of stickers. This client has decided to pay me in advance for it and so they expect a quick turn around. I’ve agreed. I’ve scoured the internet. I’ve put my best findings regarding stickers on paper and I’ve cleaned and polished the article. It looks gorgeous! But, hang on! It’s only 700 words. My client paid me for 1000 words!

Writing an extra 300 words gets difficult.

I’m not kidding. My article is THE BEST article ever written. Everything fits in perfectly, there is just no room for anything more! Yet, it’s not good enough. My client wants 1000 words and I don’t want to let them down. Chances are, if I open up to them and say, “Look this is all I could manage,” they’d be fine with it. But, for me — this is a business. If a client paid for a service, I want to deliver it.

How do I get these elusive 300 words?

Fluff the article? Turn, they’re, into they are? Turn, you’re, into you are?

NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Fluffing the article is a massive no. Why? You risk ruining the flow of your piece. That best article ever written will suddenly drop in quality. Your shining work is now mediocre. The client won’t hire you again.

NEVER FLUFF.

In fact, what I tend to do in these situations is go over the article and see where I can add a personal flair. For example, if I’m talking about a roll or stickers available on Amazon, I’ll mention why I think that particular roll is the best one to go for. Maybe I’ll add in a statistic, or mention a testimonial by another user. My point is, I look to expand in ways that aren’t simply keeping the piece the same and don’t drag it out either. Do you get that?

I’ll also walk away. Sometimes, that’s difficult. Sometimes, it’s not possible. If my client is desperate for their article, I can’t walk away. Even on occasion, I tell myself, I want to get a particular piece out by a certain time and if I have to walk away because I can’t find those extra 300 words, it stops that from happening. It can be demotivational, it can make me feel like a failure. Though you have to force yourself!

IT HELPS!

Anyone in the freelance business, whether it be writing, art or digital design, knows that taking a break is esential. The 300 words may be impossible to get now, but when you’ve had a shower, gone for a walk and returned, you’ll find you’ve got a fresh perspective and suddenly, new ideas will spring to mind!

There we have it, word counts are pretty important. Why am I telling you this? I want to give you an insight on what life is like as a freelance writer. A lot of people and I mean A LOT, think it’s a case of just sitting at your computer and writing article after article. There’s so much more to it than that and to be honest, it can be stressful. It’s a VERY competitive market and one slip-up, one bad client who isn’t happy about the 700 article when they paid for 1000?

There goes your credibility.

Being a freelance writer is tough. If it wasn’t, every one would do it and word counts are one of the many challenges I face everyday.

But anyway, enough about that! Let’s talk about the future!

I’m starting a YouTube channel!


It’s true! And it’s going to be all about writing! This is all part of my endeavour to put a human face to myself. I want to be your content writer and I want you to know me. What am I going to do on this channel exactly?

Talking about writing, of course!

I am going to use my YouTube channel not only as a way to promote my business, but also as a way to help all the budding writers out there improve their craft! I’m so excited! You can expect to see me talking about more matters like this, talking about my own journey into writing and just having a fun time that I can share with you guys!

I don’t know when it’s happening. I’m very busy at it is what with my novel, my clients and my writing course, but I’m doing it! I’ve already worked on a little introduction sequence and I can’t wait to show you more! So as usual watch this space!

****

And that’s a wrap on another week!

I hope you all have had a wonderful time, feel free to comment below and let me know about your experiences in writing, any suggestions about what you’d want to see me talk about and… well just about anything really! Tell me to quit what I’m doing and slap me across the wrist for trying. Either way, let’s open a channel of communication! I’m thinking of starting up some polls or something too so I can really get interactive with you guys!

Until next time!

Sam!

I Got Into a Fight With Speech Recognition Software – Weekly Blog Post #2

I Got Into a Fight With Speech Recognition Software – Weekly Blog Post #2

My girlfriend is in the bathroom dying her hair. All she can hear from the living room is me shouting at… Well, no one! How embarrassing! Okay, okay. I bet you’re asking now, how did this happen? How did I get into the situation where, on Friday night, I’m sitting on my own shouting at my computer?!

First, let’s answer the most basic question:

What is Speech Recognition?

Speech recognition is a feature built into computers and phones which converts your voice into commands that your computer/phone can understand.

It’s really handy for writers, because it allows you to talk instead of type. It’s a quicker method of getting work done!

Anyway! This isn’t a response post, so let’s get back on subject. As my client base is picking up, I decided to turn to speech recognition to be able to write faster, but it didn’t work for me! When I set-it up, Windows said to me it worked best with a British accent, so I was feeling pretty confident it was the way forward. I plugged my microphone in, I completed the training prompt, I opened Word and started talking…

Spelling error, spelling error, spelling error, spelling error.

It’s okay, the software learns! That’s how speech recognition sells itself. So, I completed more training. I went through correcting every mistake by speaking commands instead of using the keyboard, but still, after an hour I had written about a paragraph. On keyboard, I can normally write so much more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about speech recognition and this isn’t a post where I say, “Hey! Don’t use it! It doesn’t work!” I know it takes training; I know it’s an investment. Yet for me, last night, it was just frustrating. I can already picture my girlfriend in the bathroom wincing as I got more and more annoyed at it.

Though for freelance writing, I don’t think typing on a keyboard can cut it. I really don’t. To be successful at it, you have to be fast. The keyboard restricts me, it hurts my hands, it’s a one-way ticket to carpal tunnel. So I’ll keep training the speech recognition software, I’ll start talking like a radio presenter and in a few months, my friend’s won’t have any trouble understanding me because my best friend will have become my computer. In the meantime, it’s more cringing for my girlfriend as I suffer through it.

Here’s an experiment of how bad I’ve got it. I’m going to say,

“I want to get better and quicker at freelancing, so I’m using speech recognition.”

I’m not going to correct anything. Here we go:

I would get better and quicker 3¢@these in speech recognition

Right?! One sentence, which admittedly didn’t turn out that bad. I’ve seen worse and I’ve learned some pretty interesting rhymes. I can correct that pretty easily. But if I’m working through paragraphs and paragraphs. To me, it just isn’t worth it.

So that’s how I spent my Friday night, in 2020, amidst the pandemic. Not getting on with speech recognition software! In the end, I went back to typing. I do hope to train it, I do. I have to slow down before I get faster.

And that can be applied to anything, right? Life is a learning curve and nobody is good at anything overnight. The speech recognition isn’t good at understanding you in one go, just as I didn’t get into freelancing after one sitting. I still struggle with it now. I’m getting clients, I have a hit list of articles waiting to be done, but I am also in my writing course, I’m also trying to write a novel. Time management isn’t easy. On the one side, I don’t want to disappoint my clients, but on the other side I don’t want my novel to escape me.

I’m pretty sure I touched upon that in my last blog, where I said you need a decent schedule. My clients take priority, they’re paying customers, but when I’m off work: an hour of freelance, an hour of my novel, an hour of my course. That’s the dream.

Yet if I burn myself out, then all of a sudden, my hobby becomes a chore. Another issue we touched upon in the last blog post. You gotta take breaks.

Speech recognition, I need you!

I can listen to music, talk to my computer like I’m talking to an old chum, freak out my girlfriend and make bags of cash! Perfect!

It’s so amazing, I’ve been learning more and more every single day since I launched my career seriously. I thought I knew the ropes of freelancing, I thought I had to sit at a computer, type tons and that was it. Essentially, it is. Yet like any other job, you have to balance time, you have to know how to be efficient and you need to be able to produce high quality content. So, what’s changed since my last blog post? I’ve been trying to do just that. Writing is one thing, but writing fast is another.

And that’s why I hope these blog posts help. I’m not spending a lot of time on them. I’m not correcting them. I’m giving an avenue for my customers to see I’m actually a bad writer–

I’m human, I mean. A well piece is crafted, like a work of art. But as you earn experience you learn to craft pieces more quickly. It takes practice. This, for me, is practice. It’s a way to talk to you guys, to allow you to make fun of my failures and to bless my successes.

I’m sorry typo in this article. I’m not correcting you today. Nor am I correcting the wrong use of grammar that no doubt crept its way int.

This is a human article written by a human being. Straight from my brain and into yours.

I hope you enjoyed!

Hang on, this blog post is only 982 words before this point!

Yeah, you got it: word count is important in blog posts. Google mark anything less than 300 words light on content and so that’s bad for SEO. Yet, 900 words for a blog post...it’s still a little short!

And just like that, we’ve discovered another difficulty in writing! Word counts!

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not exploring that this week. But come back next week and we’ll dive in to why word count is important! We’ll also catch-up on whatever successes and difficulties I may face in the upcoming 7-days.

(Here’s hoping for more of the former, eh)

See you then! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by email if you want notifications sent directly to you!

5 Ways YOU Can Prevent Animal Cruelty

Adorable, don’t you think? The very symbol of innocence and youth!

What if I told you not everyone sees that beauty?

You and I would never harm our furry friend, however, in the UK and Wales alone the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) picks up a phone call on their 24-hour cruelty line every 30-seconds. Can you imagine that?

The RSPCA only have a team of 500.

500 looking to encourage decency in human-beings.

500 protecting against the United Kingdom’s population of 67 million.

It’s a losing battle and as sad as it is, against so many, there will always be sick thugs, hooligans and criminals looking to counteract their work.

Meet Neve.

A two-year-old cat who was found wounded in the Crookston area of Scotland. According to BBC News (South Scotland), police believe she was injured after a shotgun or similar firearm was used against her. She survived the incident, but she now faces a life-time of long-term health issues. It begs the question:

Who Did It and What Was Their Punishment?

We don’t know. The culprits are still out there.

Currently the Scottish Police are appealing for information on their 101 Non-Emergency number. If you’re from the Crookston area and know something: contact them, because we all hope and pray Neve gets the justice she deserves.

In the meantime, I ask the question (and I’m sure you’re wondering), what can YOU do to prevent animal cruelty?

So, here are 5 VERY important steps YOU can take!

  1. Raise Awareness
    A lot of people may not know just how bad the animal cruelty situation is, but you can do your part by talking about it. Tell Neve’s story and recount these five steps. Talk to your friends, family, neighbours and remember:

The more people that know the signs of animal cruelty, the more there are looking out for it.

  1. Donate
    The RSPCA accept online donations. In fact, they wouldn’t exist without them. What’s more, on their website you can see exactly where your money goes. So, check it out (Donate) and get involved!

As little as £1 can help fund vital work.

  1. Report
    Confrontation can be scary, so if you see someone being cruel to an animal it may be dangerous to challenge them. However, that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Don’t hesitate to ring your local animal welfare to tell them exactly what you witnessed.

Even if you only suspect something is afoot, report it. You can’t get into trouble for being cautious and could save an animal’s life.

  1. Sign Petitions
    You may not have been involved in an incident directly, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Try typing into Google, “Animal Cruelty Petition.” I did and over 7,000,000 results appeared. In just five minutes, your name could be going down to help a good cause. You can also start a petition too if you think there’s an injustice in your area.

Your signature can go a long way, so why not use it?

  1. Adopt from Animal Shelters.
    There is nothing better than having a furry companion in life and a lot of the time, animal shelters across the world will be looking to rehome a pet that’s been neglected. You can give them a good-life and prevent any further cruelty.

Every animal in a good household is one less animal in a cruel one.

 Remember, even if an animal has been abused, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a good life once rehomed.

You can make the difference.

So, take the leap and make it. With these five simple steps, you will have made the world a better place for animals. Get involved and keep our furry friend’s happy, warm and comfortable, just as they do with us every single day.

We may never stop animal cruelty in its entirety, but we can certainly make it much more difficult to get away with. Let’s get justice for young Neve and prevent horrible and sick incidents like it from happening again.


Cites:

BBC News South Scotland (2020, July 04) “Wounded cat may have been shot, say police.” Retrieved 2020, July 05.

The Scottish Sun (2020, July 04) “PET HORROR Scots cat shot by sick gun thugs suffers ‘significant injuries’ as police launch probe”, Retrieved 2020, July 05.

RSPCA (N.D) Retrieved 2020, July 05.


I’m Starting A Blog!

I’m Starting A Blog!

As many of you know, this website is primarily my portfolio and there isn’t much reason to revisit! So, I want to start posting on a weekly basis! Perhaps on Saturday’s, maybe on Sunday’s, talking about… Well anything!

These pieces won’t be featured on my home-page, they won’t be professionaly crafted and they won’t be vigorously proof-read. Why? Because I want them to feel real! A public diary, of sorts. So sit back, grab that cuppa and prepare to dive in! I hope this read and any future ones will help you get to know me and chill out for a while, even from a distance!

Let’s Talk Writing!

This is a writing website, so what better subject is there to start with on my first post? I am writing a fantasy novel! Could I get any more cliché? I can’t go into too many details about it, if you want to take the traditionally publishing route — it’s a no, no. I really want to talk about it. Like, really want to. But, publishing agents and publishers themselves, they want to sell a product, right?

Imagine if they go to advertise this new top-of-the-line fantasy series, but every detail about it is already scattered all over the web? To them, that won’t sell! So they’ll just shelve the book and move on to the next person!

I even wanted to write short-stories set in the universe I created. I thought, if I can’t write about my novel why not write new stories and set it in the world of my novel? I could self-publish those, have them ready pretty quick, and you guys would have some entertainment!

Nope.

What if I write a bunch of short stories and they’re poorly recieved? What if I write a bunch of short stories and nobody is interested? Publishers and agents will look at that — bam! They’ll move on to the next person!

Traditional publishing is a dog eat dog world. So I have to endure keeping my lips sealed for the time being (but I promise you, it will be worth it!)

So if it’s such a mountain to clumb…

Why am I traditionally publishing instead of self-publishing?

I’m not against self-publishing. I’m really not. But, I’ve grown up in a world of tradiationalists and so, for me to feel fulfilled I want to have a novel out there with an agent backing it. Also, if I can’t get my novel traditionally published, I could always just self-publish it anyway. Very rarely does that work the other way round. Either way, my novel will get out there soon!

Also something, movie deals, best-selling lists, big cash…

What?! Did someone say something *ahem*. Nothing amiss here.

I do think I will self-publish in my time, but for this particular series, I want to publish the old-fashioned way!

One thing I have learned is that writing is hard!

Of course it is, if it wasn’t everybody would be doing it! Whether it be freelance or novel writing, it isn’t easy. It takes a long time. Remember my NaNoWriMo series? It’s funny — when I did that, I told myself my novel would be published a few months after that. But, I am still working on my second draft! Can you believe that? Almost a year later. And as I work my way through it, I realise, my first draft was terrible! I looked this up online and guess what? Apparently that’s pretty natural! Most first drafts are awful! I cringe at my own writing as I go through it, but it’s fun!

It’s also exhausting.

Writers block hasn’t ever truly been an issue for me, but I suffer from the fact that if I write more my writing drops in quality. I always come back and improve it, of course I do, but when I’m working my way through my novel I have it in my mind that I want to put an hour in, two hours, three…Yet is there any point working for that long if what your writing is just bad? I’m not sure if it is.

Some of my friends disagree, they think I should force myself to do 8 hours a day, yet that risks making my work into a chore and I never want this to be a chore.

Even if I am deep in a technical documents that’s more boring than waiting in line for a prescription, I never want this to be a chore.

And there we have it!

My first blog post, it’s short, it’s sweet and it’s a mess! But that’s exactly what I want this to be. No crafted pieces, no long writing sessions. Just an hour of me talking about wherever my fingers on the keyboard take me.

If you liked this, subscribe to my mailing list and there will be more next week! And occasionaly some crafted pieces!

Or contact me! Get chatting — is there anything in particular you want me to talk about? Whether it be in regards to writing, my move to Canada….

I am all ears!

Moving to Canada on an IEC Visa.

Arriving in Canada

(If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, “The Application”, be sure to check it out by clicking here! Part 2, “Travelling to Canada”, is also available by clicking here!)

The travelling is over! You’ve made it to Canada and you should be proud. You’ve achieved an incredible feat. Something that so many people dream of doing! It’s a scary experience, but I am pleased to say, the worst is now over. Be that as it may, now you’ve reached the top of the mountain, you need to plant your flag. In this article, I want to talk about how I did that. Join me today as I discuss what’s involved in getting a social insurance number, arranging temporary accommodation, landing your first job and finally, getting your first apartment.

When I first arrived in Canada, I found myself at the bottom rung of a very tall ladder.

I had no immediate prospects, no car and no job. It sounds worrying but, I found it to be refreshing. It was a new start that I could craft into whatever I please, and I was eager to get underway. Yet I bore a weary mind and soul from the arduous journey, and no doubt you do too. For that reason, the first order of business should be to rest. You’ve got to shake that pesky jet lag and become accustomed to living in a new country, so do just that. Two years is a long time, and taking a week to yourself isn’t going to hurt. You’ve had a hard time getting here and deserve a well-earned rest.

In finding accommodation, I was quite lucky as I travelled with my partner. Her family live near Toronto, where we landed, so it wasn’t a problem for us. I know others on the IEC visa won’t be as fortunate, but hotels and companies such as Airbnb aren’t too expensive. For example, in Toronto, a stay with Airbnb will cost around $30-$60CAD per night. However, if you’re planning an extended stay, talk to the local hotels or hosts of the Airbnb accommodation; sometimes they will offer to reduce the overall cost of a long stay. 

Whether you do decide to stay at an Airbnb, a hotel or a friend’s place, I can’t recommend enough to do absolutely nothing for a short time, while you get yourself rested and organised.

When you finally decide it’s time to start working, then your next goal should be to get a SIN (Social Insurance) number. The majority of you should have received this right after crossing the border but as mentioned in my previous article (Part 2!), I had a bit of a problem here.

My plane suffered such a long delay that when I finally landed in Toronto, the company that provides SIN numbers had closed for the evening.

I don’t think the border officer realised this when I spoke to him. He stamped my passport, handed over my visa with a smile, and pointed at a “Service Canada” booth on the other side of the border. “The workers there will assign you a SIN number,” he explained. I jaunted over to the booth, asked the first worker I saw for my SIN in ever such a polite manner, and received a big fat “No!”  The kind manners of my border agent contrasted that of the SIN worker who dealt with me. I enquired further, unsure about what I would do without a SIN number and the worker replied in a blunt manner: “Go to another location.” He then pushed a business card into my hand (with no other locations listed on it but pointing here) and ushered me through to baggage claim. If it wasn’t for my Canadian girlfriend with her apt inside knowledge, I would have been at a loss. She explained that the business card was for a government initiative called “Service Canada,” (appropriately named, given the booth!) and that they have branches all over the country. So, if you’re not provided a SIN number in the airport, don’t fret. Look up your nearest Service Canada centre and show up whenever you please. No appointment necessary! Tell the receptionist that greets you why you’re there. Make sure you have your visa and passport with you, and away you go. You’ll walk out with a SIN number within the hour.

Relief was the most forefront of feelings once I had that settled. My irrational mind told me that by missing the collection of my SIN number, I’d never get another opportunity! I even had a brief moment of thinking I’d gone against the border officers’ rules in bypassing its collection. Illogical, I know. But I did all the worrying on that day, so that you don’t have to. With a SIN number in my possession, I could now get a job. Brilliant! But that wasn’t the next goal.

Time to open a bank account.

If I was to have a job, the money I earned had to go somewhere. We couldn’t earn cash in hand and have the taxman go hungry, after all. Enter the Big Five Banks of Canada: RBC, TD Canada Trust, Scotiabank, BMO and CIBC! They all offer varying packages and it can be hard to decide who to bank with. Especially considering that they all try to entice you with their “New to Canada” account. I won’t go into the details or the pros and cons (as I want to focus solely on my experience) here, so I’ll be blunt. I picked TD Canada Trust because it’s where my girlfriend and her family have banked all their lives.

They’ve not done me wrong in the six months I have been in Canada and we’re all perfectly happy, thank you very much.

I will, however, talk about my experience opening an account with TD Canada Trust and explain where you might find difficulty. When opening an account, TD required proof of my address within Canada. Though I was staying at my girlfriend’s parents’ house, I didn’t actually have any proof of that. At least, I didn’t think I did. I don’t know if it’s orthodox, but the teller at TD allowed me to open an account using my girlfriend as my proof of address. Yes, you heard it folks! I had a witness, if you will, to the address I offered TD and they were quite happy with that. Now, I know that might not be much help for someone new in the country with few contacts, so a bit of advice: I’ve heard some banks will accept Airbnb invoices as proof of address. Give it a go! Be warned though, whomever owns the Airbnb may receive your bank statements for the foreseeable future, unless you go paperless. My partner’s parents are still getting my paper statements today.

The experience of opening a bank account was so simple, it was refreshing. There’s a pattern here, isn’t there? I walked into the appointment feeling anxious; I knew the address may be an issue. And yet, I walked out surprised at how easy the ordeal turned out to be, and with a fresh new Canadian visa in my wallet (yep, they even hand those over in-store)!  With that settled, I could start working now, right?

Nope!

I needed a Canadian SIM card in my phone.

I could now work in Canada, but how would potential employers contact me? I couldn’t give them a UK number, but my phone was in good condition. I didn’t want a whole new one. No, a SIM only deal would suffice.

Not true.

I did need a new phone and you will too.

When I decided to take the SIM only path, I went with a Canadian company called Freedom Mobile. I agreed to a recurring pay-as-you go deal, with a pretty decent data plan, yet my phone could never pick up a signal or receive text messages. It just didn’t work. So, as soon as I could, I headed over to the local shopping mall and visited a Freedom Mobile branch. I presented the workers my phone and explained the issue. The technician clocked on straight away, asking if my phone was from outside of the Americas. I told him it was British and like a knowing genius, he let out a hearty laugh! For, it turns out, British phones work on a different frequency than American phones, so they won’t get a signal from the American TELUS towers.

That was the gist of it anyway.

Was I the victim of a sales-pitch?

Before I knew it, I had a brand-new phone. But I’m confident in what the technician told me, because the new phone worked with the new SIM card immediately. So, after a few light-hearted texts with the sister-in-law (my first Canadian number since my partner was still on her British phone!), I was ready to begin the job hunt!

The job hunt was a lot harder than I thought.

It wasn’t that I had a bad resume. In fact, in the least conceited way, my resume was pretty solid. Difficulty arose in the fact that recruitment agencies seemed to have a monopoly on the Canadian job market. I sent a thousand emails to different companies, via various websites including Indeed and LinkedIn, and found 99% of the responses I received were from agencies. Which would be fine, if the responses were job offers, but the recruitment agencies weren’t getting in touch with me for that reason. They were getting in touch with me to get me into their system, so that they could earn commission from finding me a job.

I despised it, but I crumbled. I took up an agency offer to help and let me tell you, it led to the worst job of my life.

I arrived at the agency, with my fancy resume in my bag and my best suit on, feeling like I was starting to get prospects. A well-dressed lady greeted me and took me through all the steps to register an account with them. At first, I thought it was all pretty standard.

She then offered me a job, without an interview, working in a warehouse.

To put matters into perspective, offering me a job in a warehouse felt like offering a vegetarian a ham. It wasn’t for me and did not reflect my resume in the slightest. It was as if the recruitment agency hadn’t even read my resume. They wanted to put me into work so they could get their commission and move me along. It didn’t matter to them where I worked.

It was as if someone else had taken control of me when I accepted their offer.

I wanted an income and it was the quickest way of getting one; that was my justification. I tried convincing myself that if I didn’t like the job, I could leave. Then I walked away feeling like the victim of a con. Who walks away after accepting a job offer, regretting it?! Something was afoot and my instincts weren’t wrong. The job was hard and mindless labour. I travelled an hour every day to get there, leaving at 5:00am, feeling exhausted before the sun was even up.

It. Was. Hard.

 When I came home, my face would be black with dirt and my joints would ache. It made me depressed, it made me regret leaving home, and it made me feel like I was underselling myself. My colleagues were rude, none of them would talk to me. If I said good morning, they’d ignore me. I was completely worthless, I didn’t matter, I could be fired in moments, I was being soul-crushed, I … I …

Even thinking about it now stirs a hornet’s nest.

But I don’t regret working for the warehouse because it earned me an income for the time I was there and, in fact, it led to my first apartment. Let’s talk about that!

When my partner and I felt ready to move out of her parent’s house, we looked on a website called Kijiji. The website had a slew of options, and we found the place for us after a few evenings of browsing. Though I must warn you, we did have to fight through scam offers to get to it. ANYBODY can post an advertisement on Kijiji so remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t pay money upfront without seeing a lease, and don’t accept a property without viewing. It sounds like common sense, right? But people did attempt it on us, believe me! Yet the apartment we did find was genuine. When we contacted the landlord, he offered us a viewing the very next day. My partner and I accepted. Without going into too much detail on the place, we loved it! We filled out an application to rent the same night, and though I had no Canadian credit history, we got the apartment!

Why?

How did we get an apartment without credit history?

… Because I proved I worked and was honest about it. Our apartment required a credit check but I levelled with the landlord. I told him I had no credit in Canada, but I showed I could get a job immediately; and to a landlord, that shows reliability. As much as I hated the warehouse, I know for a fact if it wasn’t for it, I never would have found the lovely apartment I am sitting in now.

So, thank you, recruitment agency monopolisation and thank you for your terrible warehouse job!

I learned in finding work, I couldn’t be picky. Because any job, no matter how hard it is, is a job. I went into work every morning feeling depressed, and came home every evening feeling even worse. There were some days where I didn’t want to show up at all — it was that bad — but I endured. For it, my girlfriend and I got the apartment and a constant income until, eventually, a more tempting job offer from a prominent company came along — with no agency involvement (I’m a little alienated from them right now)!

I am also so grateful the landlord took a chance on my partner and I, and that came from the fact that we were straight with him. You’ll find the best results by just being honest, which is an over-arching piece of advice in this series. Don’t be afraid to explain your situation, that you’ve just moved into the country and are still planting your roots. My landlord took a chance on my partner and I, because he said he’d been in the same situation before and knew what it was like. I wonder if we’d have still got our home had I not explained our situation. That being said, this piece of advice will only be relevant if you go for private rental. Bigger rental companies will focus simply on how your application competes with others. So, try to open an honest conversation with an individual instead of a faceless company.

… And that is my story! My first few months in Canada on an IEC visa and my experience in 2019, and a brief overview leading to where I am today.

I wanted to keep this article short and sweet for a quick read. BUT if you want me to go into more detail about anything, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via my contact email. I’ll be happy to help. Thank you for reading and best of luck in your IEC journey, whether it be in 2020 or 2050!

It’s not an easy journey, but my gosh is it a fulfilling one.

Welcome to Canada!