Another Monday and a potpourri of fascinating links to the world of stories. Two of my favorites this week are Mapping Main Street and a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity. And for those of you considering self-employment be sure to read Leo Babauta’s piece on getting started. He’s got some very practical advice.
- Put Your Ancestors on Our Cover! “We’re looking for a great ancestral photo to feature on the cover of the January 2010 Family Tree Magazine (that’s our 10th anniversary issue!). Maybe your family photo is the one.”
- Mapping Main Street: “… a collaborative documentary media project that creates a new map of the country through stories, photos and videos recorded on actual Main Streets. The goal is to document all of the more than 10,000 streets named Main in the United States.”
- Interview: Sue William Silverman on Memoir Writing: “Sue William Silverman’s newest book, Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir, reads like a memoir about writing memoir – and that’s exactly what the accomplished and respected nonfiction writer had in mind when she decided to do a book about writing craft.”
- Once upon a time in Palo Alto: “Unlike their bigger oral history counterparts, these videos are low-budget and brief but they give watchers impressions of a city that most of us probably don’t know too well, if at all.”
- I Love My Librarian Award: “… encourages library users to recognize the accomplishments of exceptional public, school, college, community college, or university librarians. The award is administered by the American Library Association with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York and The New York Times.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity: “Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.”
Photo by fdecomit
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If you’re self-employed as I am, you’re probably all too familiar with the trap of filling most of your days with work. There are deadlines to meet, marketing activities, clients to see, and administrative chores. Maybe you’ve found a way to manage all this and still have a life. If you haven’t, here are some lessons learned from my three decades of experience that you might find helpful. To be honest, sometimes I “mess up” and don’t follow my own guidelines. But they’ve become a habit now and so it’s easier to get back on track when I’ve run amok. Let me know what works for you.
- Take mini breaks. Taking breaks restores your energy and helps prevent repetitive stress injuries. I take at least four or five breaks during my day. I stop for a 15 minute cup of tea around 10 am after putting in an hour or more of work. I break for lunch and have a power nap afterwards – no more than 30 minutes otherwise I feel groggy. Mid-afternoon, I stop for 30 minutes, make some tea (You can tell I like tea!) and read the newspaper. Between 4:30 pm or 5 pm I go for a brisk 30 minute walk. I get back and work until 7 pm. Then I stop for the day.
- Make a date with yourself. I found that unless I actually designated a day free from work and other chores, I never really managed to take time off. So I looked at my work and social demands and decided that Mondays worked best for me. Now here’s the trick. This is a day you designate just for you. It’s not a time to do all the chores around the house that you’ve been neglecting. I use my day for play and relaxation. I may read, go for a long walk, check out my favorite Thrift Stores, or putter in the garden.
- Begin your day unrushed and peacefully. I take about two hours from the time I get up until I sit down to work. My day starts (after I feed our cat, Annie) with 30 minutes of meditation. This is followed by about thirty-five minutes of stretching and strengthening exercises. I stop for breakfast, clean up the dishes, and then have a shower. No matter what my day holds for me, I know that starting it off in a calm and peaceful manner means I can cope with almost anything.
- Fix a definite time to end your work day. For years I’ve made a rule that at 7 pm I stop work. I get up and walk away from my desk. I don’t take calls unless it’s an emergency. If you don’t discipline yourself to stop work at a fixed time each day, the danger is that you end up working until you collapse into your bed.
- Set boundaries and keep to them. If you’re unclear what boundaries are important to you, chances are you’ll get blown about like a leaf in a storm. I’ve alluded to some of my boundaries above. I end my day at 7 pm. There has to be a very compelling reason to change that. Monday is my free day. Nothing interrupts that unless it’s a call from Barack Obama! And that has yet to happen. There are other boundaries you can set that have to do with your fees, the quality of work you expect from yourself and others, the type of personal history project you won’t undertake, and so on.
Photo by Sergei Yahchybekov
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I’m not Moses or even a prophet for that matter. But I’ve been around for a while! As a freelancer for thirty years, I’ve learned some key lessons that can be summed up in these ten commandments that I try my best to follow. Not always successfully! For those of you starting out, these might provide a useful checklist. For the experienced among us, perhaps the commandments will be a useful reminder of what we need to keep doing. What are your commandments? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
- Create a dedicated home office space. If you can spare a room with a door that closes, all the better. You want to create a space that says, “This is where I work. Do not disturb.” The added value is that at the end of the day you can close the door and leave your work behind.
- Learn to say N0. You’ll find this is a crucial commandment. You want to be able to say No to a client that wants you to work for less than you’re worth. You want to be able to say No to taking on a client you don’t like. You need to say No to taking on more work than you can handle.
- Take time off. I know that when you’re self-employed, it’s easy to work every day. But this is a recipe for burn-out. While there’ll be times when deadlines loom, make certain to find some down-time during the day and the week. Schedule these times in your calendar. If you don’t, chances are you’ll just keep on working.
- Schedule a part of each week for marketing. For most of us the idea of marketing is about as much fun as going to the dentist. And like the dentist, if we don’t schedule regular marketing activities, we’ll be in trouble down the road. The important thing is to build marketing into your weekly schedule, whether it’s an hour a day or once a week – make a date and stick to it.
- Join a professional association. I’m a member of the Association of Personal Historians and it has been a great source of support and training. Through an association like the APH you can develop your skills, meet some great people, and improve your professional credibility with your clients.
- Have a mentor. Working on your own can be lonely. You need to find someone in your community that you can go to for support. It doesn’t have to be another personal historian. It could be someone who knows how to market a home-based business. Or maybe it’s another freelancer who’s been in business long enough to share some insights and advice.
- Keep educating yourself. I find that running your own business requires many different hats. While I’m experienced at some things like video shooting and editing, I still want to know more about marketing. So I’ve taken workshops, read books, and subscribed to marketing newsletters. I find too that it’s imperative to keep up with changing technologies.
- Keep regular “office” hours. Working from home can present a minefield of distractions that will eat away at your time. That’s why it helps to set regular work hours that fit your particular needs. It doesn’t have to be 9 to 5 but it does have to have a set start and finish time. Make sure to build into your schedule time for breaks and domestic duties.
- Meet deadlines and deliver quality work. Much of our success as personal historians depends on referrals from happy clients. Failing to keep to an agreed upon delivery date or producing less than professional looking work will damage your reputation.
- Have fun. For me, this is absolutely critical. Being creative has a lot to do with playfulness. If you’re not having fun, your work will show it. Your clients will sense your lethargy and rightly question why you’re continuing to work as a personal historian.
Photo by Jamie Carter
I was particularly intrigued by two of this week’s link roundup because they are different and somewhat unusual ways of unlocking our life stories. One article has to do with potato salad and the other our body scars. It got me thinking of the stories attached to my various scars. Do you think this could be the beginning of a best seller?
- Our Scars Tell the Stories of Our Lives: “Sometimes they’re stark tales of life-threatening catastrophes, but more often they’re just footnotes to the ordinary but bloody detours that befall us on the roadways of life.”
- Google Quadruples Historical Newspaper Archive: “Google announced last week that it has quadrupled its searchable archive of historical news articles, many of which are free to access. Additions include the Halifax Gazette (dating as far back as 1753, as shown below), Sydney Morning Herald, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Village Voice, the Manila Standard, The Nation (from Thailand) and others.”
- Memoirs on the Go and the Blurring of the Personal and Public: “…blogs are serving as a kind of “memoir-on-the-go,” one that allows for dialogue and also a large readership. … I believe the permeability between memoirs and blogging — and also practices such as “facebooking” — will, if anything, feed the memoir phenomenon:”
- Potato salad: Family stories and secrets: “Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter if you use mustard or mayo, horseradish or pickles, potato salad isn’t potato salad without the memories tied to the well-loved dish.”
Photo by fdecomit
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What’s worse than having no clients at all? If you said the client from hell, you’re absolutely right. Here are seven questions to ask yourself that will ensure that you don’t end up working with Satan’s cousin.
- Do I have the time? Look carefully at what’s on your plate right now. This should include not only current projects but also ongoing business tasks such as networking, promotion, and bookkeeping. Don’t forget to factor in personal chores such as shopping, caregiving, and cleaning. No one wants to say no to potential work. But you also want to do the best for your client while at the same time not become over- extended.
- Is this a client I like? One of the pleasures of being a personal historian is that we get to work with some incredibly interesting people. If you find that your potential client exhibits behavior and expresses beliefs that are antithetical to yours, you should seriously question continuing with that client. Remember, you’ll be spending many hours together and you don’t want to be continually agitated by someone you basically don’t like.
- Am I a good fit for this client? Each of us tends to specialize. In my case it’s video life stories although I have done some books. If your potential client is looking for a life story in a format in which you haven’t much experience, then consider referring that client to someone who does have the expertise. You’ll gain the respect of your client for being forthright. If you still want to take on this client, do you have access to people who could help you in those areas where you’re less proficient?
- Does this client have the support of other family members? Families can be messy – not at all like those Norman Rockwell paintings. You don’t want inadvertently to get yourself into some long-standing family squabble. Ask if your client has discussed this undertaking with other family members. Are they supportive? Are there concerns? If there hasn’t been any discussion, then have your client bring together all the parties concerned so that you can talk to the group about what’s involved and answer questions.
- Am I treated as a professional? Remember you are a professional. If you’re like me, you’ve had decades of experience in a field related to personal history, have a university degree or two, and have a portfolio of personal history projects. So watch out for potential clients who fail to return calls, keep changing appointment times, forget meetings, try to “nickel and dime” you to death, and imply that their “cousin Bob” could do the work for half the price. None of this is in keeping with treating you as a professional. No one would treat a lawyer, accountant, or doctor that way. You shouldn’t put up with this kind of behavior either.
- Is this potential client the one who will be paying me? From my experience, it’s not uncommon for the person requesting my service not to be the same person paying for it. For example, a daughter may inquire about doing a personal history for her mother but it is the parent who will be paying for the work. From the beginning it’s important to establish who is paying for your service. You want to have all the principal players in the same room so that you can explain the process directly and address any concerns that may arise. Failure to do this can mean misinterpreted information is relayed and additional meetings may be needed to clarify matters. This is not a productive use of your time.
- Will working with this client stretch me professionally? I don’t know about you, but I thrive on challenges. If I had to do the same thing day-in and day-out, I’d be bored. Now it’s a truism that clients pay you for what you know not what you need to know. It may sound as if I’m contradicting Question Three above. However, if you tell your client you’d enjoy taking on the challenge of expanding your skills, you might gain their support. You can sweeten the deal by offering your service at a lower than normal fee to compensate for your learning.
What tips do you have for screening potential clients?
[Thanks to Web Worker Daily for suggesting this topic.]
Photo by Marco Bellucci
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Here’s a list for both the newcomer to personal histories and those with many years of experience. It’s an eclectic list which ranges from creative writing prompts to photo retouching software and from free fonts to a dictionary of military terms. Even if you’re not a personal historian, you’ll find something here that you can use. Have fun! And let me know if you have some favorite free resources you’d like to add to the list.
- Creative Writing Prompts – Point your cursor to any number, read the prompt and then write your story!
- Convert PDF to Word(Doc) - quickly and easily create editable DOC/RTF files, making it a cinch to re-use PDF content in applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, OpenOffice, and WordPerfect.
- Timeglider – web-based timeline software for creating and sharing history and project planning
- GIMP – downloadable software suitable for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring.
- Microsoft Word Tips – This site contains thousands of tips and tricks on how to use Word better, faster, and more easily. You can quickly access the answers you need.
- The American Heritage Guide to the Best of the Web – a critical guide to the World Wide Web’s very best sites about history and about topics of historical interest.
- Brainy Quote – One of the best!
- The Elements of Style – the classic reference book by William Strunk,Jr.
- Universal Currency Converter – Perform currency and foreign exchange calculations.
- OneLook Dictionary – 13,587,880 words in 1024 dictionaries indexed.
- Library and Archives Canada – Canada’s national collection of books, historical documents, government records, photos, films, maps, music…and more.
- The National Archives and Records Administration – The American record keeper.Valuable records are preserved and available for research.
- AlternaTime – A massive collection of various timelines on the Web.
- Symbols.com - contains more than 1,600 articles about 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics.
- National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) – Provides and promotes bibliographic access to the U.S. documentary heritage.
- MediaFire – Share your files and images through just one site without ever having to worry about disk space, hosting, or bandwidth again.
- Synonyms.net – the web’s most comprehensive synonyms resource.
- Prelinger Archives – holding approximately 4,000 titles on videotape and a smaller collection of film materials.
- Flickr (Creative Commons) – a source of thousands of free photos provide proper attribution is given.
- Microsoft Office templates – over 250 free templates and documents.
- KnowFree.net – a place for users to exchange freely e-books, video training and other materials for educational purposes, self-practice only.
- The Online Books Page – a website that facilitates access to books that are freely readable over the Internet.
- Scribd — the website where more than 60 million people each month discover and share original writings and documents.
- Wordcounter – ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text. Use this to see what words you overuse
- Free Artistic Photos – Photographer Lucian Husac has made available his own pictures. You can use all his pictures for free (for non-commercial reasons).
- Flash Kit – A huge archive of royalty free sound effects for download and use in your multimedia projects.
- The Freesound Project – aims to create a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, … released under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus License.
- Audacity – a free, open source software for recording and editing sounds.
- Movie Masher - A set of Adobe Flash™ applets that provide front-end tools for common video editing tasks.
- Writeboard – sharable, web-based text documents that let you save every edit, roll back to any version, and easily compare changes. Write solo or collaborate with others.
- 1001 Free Fonts – started in December 1998 it has since grown to become one of the most popular free fonts archive online.
- What The Font! – Seen a font in use and want to know what it is?
- Work.com – the entrepreneur’s owner’s manual to where to go, what to know, and how to get the most value from the ever-growing array of Web resources for the small business owner/operator.
- Open Office – the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.
- FreeTranslation.com - allows users to obtain free translations of both text and web pages.
- HP Learning center – Free, online classes, available 24/7 covering business basics and more.
- Alerts.com – a service where you can manage alerts from every available service all in one place. Whether it’s the weather, news, traffic, birthday or event reminders, price notifications or the latest scores of your favorite team.
- CutePDF Writer – the free version of commercial PDF creation software.
- Nero 9 Free Version – Enjoy basic data burning and copying capabilities for your CDs and DVDs.
- Infoplease – a comprehensive reference source that combines the contents of an encyclopedia, a dictionary, an atlas, and several almanacs loaded with statistics, facts, and historical records. A single search engine allows you to search all these sources at once.
- Creative Commons – a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright.
- Writers’ Zone – a growing resource for writers who want to get their work published, or who want to develop their careers.
- Acronym Finder – the world’s largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms.
- Dictionary of Military Terms - the United States Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.
- Tech Terms Computer Dictionary – the free online dictionary of computer and technology terms.
- morguefile – a free photo reference archive which provides a repository of free raw photo materials.
- Seamless Vector Patterns – Over 500 different types of vector patterns which are perfect for print and great to be used within web design.
- GrammarBook.com – helpful rules, real-world examples, and fun quizzes.
- Prompt Generator – Use this Prompt Generator to find great questions for interviewing clients.
- Writing Prompts – A list of great questions.
- Speech Tips - a step-by-step guide from the speech planning process, through the speech writing stage, to preparation for your public speaking engagement and ultimately to delivery of the speech itself.
- SlideShare – a way to get your slides out there on the web, so your ideas can be found and shared by a wide audience.
- Veoh – an open platform for content publishers of all sizes and sophistication who want to reach tomorrow’s television audience.
- MediaCollege.com – a free educational and resource website for all forms of electronic media. Topics include video & television production, audio work, photography, graphics, web design and more.
- Tinypic – a fast, simple and reliable video and image hosting site that you can use to share your experiences. There is no registration or log-in required.
- PRLog – a free online press release service. You can submit your press releases at no charge.
- Severa – Manage customers, projects, time and billing with a single SaaS application. Sign up one user for free.
- FreelanceSwitch – an hourly rate calculator to give you a guide based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit.
- Zoho – Create, send and manage invoices, quotes and customer payments online.
- LiteAccounting – an online application that gives you the tools you need to invoice and receive payment from your customers.
- Klok – Keep track of anything with Klok’s simple work timer and visual display of how your days “fill up”.
- Izzy Video – a resource to help you get started and develop your skills in shooting video.
- Kayak – named “Best of the Web” by BusinessWeek. Kayak searches hundreds of travel sites from all over the world, lets you refine and choose the exact result you want and then sends you directly to the source to make your purchase.
- Frekfly - practical information for travelers that travel by air.Where’s the airport located? What currency do they have over there? What’s the weather? How do you get from the airport to the city center?
- Spresent - a free Web-based alternative to PowerPoint. Create and edit high-quality Flash presentations online.
- Docly – the Web 2.0 online word processor with copyright protection, automatically assigns copyrights (both All Rights Reserved and Creative Commons) licenses to all published Docly Documents.
- Odiogo - transforms news sites and blog posts into high fidelity, near human quality audio files ready to download and play anywhere, anytime, on any device.
- Grader.com – A family of tools that helps measure all that matters in inbound marketing.
- iTunes U – a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC.
- Animoto – a web application that, with the click of a button, produces videos using images and music that a user selects.
- VoiceThread – a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate pages and leave comments using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam).
- SimplyBox – a free service that allows you to visually capture any part of a web page. As you collect items that you captured, you organize them in boxes.
- Remember The Milk – you no longer have to write your to-do lists on sticky notes, whiteboards, random scraps of paper, or the back of your hand.
- FreshBooks – delivers fast and simple invoicing and time tracking services that help you manage your business.
- YouSendIt – ideal for sending large files without the limitations of email attachments, FTP connections or overnighting critical data.
- FreeMind – free premiere mind mapping software.
- Google Docs – Create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online.
- AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition – Antivirus and antispyware protection for Windows.
- Express Scribe – a free professional audio player software for PC, Mac or Linux designed to assist the transcription of audio recordings.
- Grubba – a free and online alternative for MS access and Filemaker pro. Choose a template or create your own forms and database to fit your individual needs.
Suitable for beginner and advanced users.
- Scribus – an open-source program that brings award-winning professional page layout to Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops with a combination of “press-ready” output and new approaches to page layout.
- Clip art – free from Microsoft.
- Invoice Journal – The fast, easy and free way to send invoices to anyone in the world from anywhere in the world.
- Open Source Web Design – a site to download free web design templates and share yours with others.
- How To Be Creative – a free e-book by Hugh MacLeod, an advertising executive and popular blogger with a flair for the creative. He gives his 26 tried-and-true tips for being truly creative. Each point illustrated by a cartoon drawn by the author himself.
- 100 Ways to Help You Succeed/Make Money, Part 1 – A free e-book. In this first installment by Tom Peters you’ll find 50 short, wonderfully sweet nuggets of advice.
- The Archival Advisor – a university-based, nonprofit research laboratory devoted to scientific research in the preservation of visual and other forms of recorded information.
- Penzu – a free, intuitive, private, fast, and easy web-based journal.
- Picasa – The easy way to find, edit, and share your photos.
- Evernote – allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.
- Free Business Templates & Images – from HP create your own marketing materials.
- Passpack – You can save all your pins and logins in one single place, and access them from home, the office or anywhere else.
- MeasuringWorth – a service for calculating relative worth over time.
- BlogTalkRadio – Using an ordinary telephone and computer hosts can create free, live, call-in talk shows with unlimited participants that are automatically archived and made available as podcasts.
- scrapblog – Combine their designer content with your photos to make scrapbooks, slideshows, greeting cards, and everything in-between. Then share or print the results.
- Free Online Calculators – Calculate things online with just mouse moves.
- The World Clock – Current local times around the world.
- HowStuffWorks – Learn how everything works.
- MarketingSherpa – a research firm specializing in tracking what works in all aspects of marketing (and what does not.)
- Wax – a free, high performance, and flexible video editing and special effects program.
Photo from iStockphoto
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It’s hard to believe another week has passed. I’ve been busy collecting some interesting links. One that’s sure to bring a smile is Awkward Family Photos. I’m sure we’ve all got some of those!
- One in 8 Million: “…an oral history project in which a different individual among New York City’s 8 million residents is profiled each week of 2009.”
- Awkward Family Photos: “…here’s your chance to share your family’s awkwardness with the world. Submit family photos, wedding photos, vacation photos, engagement photos, baby photos, etc!”
- iTunes U: “…a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC.”
Photo by fdecomit
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