Learn more. Earn more.

Learn more. Earn more.
Learn more. Earn more. "Required reading" for today's smart writer! As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

15 Business & Blogging Lessons I Mastered in 2015...And You Should Too

As we come to a close on another year, I think it's important to review, revisit and revise our freelancing and blogging practices, for a more profitable, progressive and productive year ahead.

Experience is a great teacher. In fact, what I have learned over the last 12 months, you won't always encounter from a formal business "education".

Some lessons were costly; while others were simply "character developers."
I share them with you to hopefully shorten your learning curve and help you to move forward in your creative goals in 2016.

Pencils ready?

Here they are, in no particular order... 

1. Never, ever quote a price on a project without eyeballing it first.
What a potential client refers to as "quick, fast, easy, or only..." may be based upon their limited or non-professional assessment. If you dictate a price based solely on his or her word, you'll be stuck with it. And trust me, things can get sticky here. You could end up losing a lot of uncompensated time for your services. Be forewarned.

2. Putting all your "eggs in one basket" can be detrimental, and, well... dumb.
In the world of freelancing, there are many things that could go wrong, folks. Where do I begin?  A client promises to pay, but is unable due to a tough economy. You lose important files as a result of a bad computer virus, and have difficulty recovering. Your favorite editor leaves the publication for which you've been freelancing for years. Get the picture here? Diversify, diversify, diversify for greater survival!

3. "Activity" is not the same as productivity.
Have you ever spent countless hours at your computer, and at the end of the day, had nothing "concrete" to show for your efforts? Ouch. Which is why you should A). Plan your day, with desired goals and a to do list. B). Limit the time you devote to blog hopping and social media efforts. For the best results, make sure that your activities are either enhancing your bottom line, or building your business.

4. Pause* to go the distance.
Contrary to popular opinion, blogging is hard work. And I can attest. With 6 years, and over 600 posts under my belt, I can tell you it takes dedication, commitment, discipline, and an abundance of creativity. And did I mention chocolate? Because of this, it's crucial to take periodic breaks; to make time for fun, frolicking, family, and rest. In my opinion, it's why so many bloggers lose steam, burn out, and abandon their sites. Don't be one of them. "You can't give from an empty cup."

5. Learn from your mistakes, but be mindful of your successes.
Not too long ago, I came across an old journal where I jotted down some goals I had for 2013. Well, it turns out that this "hot shot" wasn't so hot, upon reviewing that list. It's been a while, and I still have yet to secure an agent, get published in the "Chicken Soup" series, or publish my book on blogging and writing. For a day or two, this realization had me down in the dumps. Then I had a reality check. Or as Oprah often called them, an "Ah-ha" moment! Though I had not achieved several of the goals I set for myself,  I had:
been published in new markets, brought a new printer for my office, garnered more blog followers, and completed a poetry book for publication.  My point here? Keep a balanced perspective and keep going.

6. You've got to spend money to make money.
Unless you intend to write recreationally, or totally as a hobbyist, you've got to spend money. Invest in yourself. Not enough writers do. Take a class to hone your skills. Purchase books to build your knowledge base. Pay for an Ad to promote your service or book. Which ties into number 7...

7. Don't forget to market!
No doubt, you'd much rather write than sell. I feel you on this one. But, marketing is crucial to building your platform, and earning what you desire and deserve. There's just no way around it. Trust me. For 2016, why not put a "Marketing Plan" in place?  Here's a great article on what to include and  how to approach it, courtesy of Forbes.com:

Well that's it for today. Your class has concluded.
Please join me next week for part 2 of the 15 Business and Blogging lessons I learned in 2015.
I'll be taking attendance. :-)

Thoughts?  Agree or disagree? What would you add?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Thoughts* An Attitude of Gratitude

It's hard to believe that the year has gone by so quickly, and that the holiday season is at our heels.
For many, it's been a challenging year: work woes, health issues, money miseries, setbacks and sorrows.
Perhaps you're one of them.
If so, don't despair.
In the midst of the madness, there's so much to be thankful for.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Baylor University, reports that individuals that found more meaning in their lives felt a greater sense of satisfaction, and that having gratitude yields more happiness than "possessing" things.

Upon reflection, here are some of the things for which I give thanks, for 2015...in no particular order.
  • Health---In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Health is the greatest wealth."
  • Home---It is indeed where the heart is. 
  • A spiritual foundation that sustains me during difficult times.
  • Good Friends---Far and near
  • Family
  • Work that I love
  • Good food
  • Living in a free country
  • The gift of creativity
  • Simple pleasures---Like the perfect cup of tea, a good read, bubble baths, music, the joy of cooking

  • A rich and diverse professional background
  • Poetry
  • Social interaction and associations with people of different age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities---we learn from each other.
  • A curious mind
  • A broad knowledge base
  • The Internet
  • Blogging
  • A grudge-free heart
  • The escape provided by a good movie
  • Retail therapy
  • The laughter of little ones

...And for your readership and faithful follow!
My heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you.

As I will need time to recuperate from this massive spread I am planning for the holidays, Pen & Prosper will take a holiday break. Please join me on December 1st, as we wrap up the year on a high note, and plan for an awesome 2016!

You on board? :-)

What are you thankful for this season? Do tell.

Monday, November 16, 2015

5 Mistakes Most Bloggers Make Branding Their Blogs!

Though there are many reasons people decide to launch a blog, there are typically three main objectives for most of us on the scene.

A). To build our platforms
B). To build online relationships
C). To build our "bottom line"

And yet with these common goals, it's important for us to be as individualistic and "uncommon" to stand out in a sea of many, and to be "heard" above all the chatter.

That's why Branding your blog successfully is crucial.  
Think of it this way: Branding is to blogging what commercials are to many of the household products you enjoy today.
  • It helps you to be recognized and remembered in a mass market. 
  • It helps to establish a cohesive image.
  • When executed properly, it allows you to "work smarter, not harder."

With this in mind, here are a few ways bloggers unknowingly sabotage their success, when it comes to branding their blogs.

Are you guilty of any...?

1. They lack the basic components of branding.
 At a very minimum, blog branding should include: a simple logo, a tagline or slogan, a personal photo, and an "About Me" page that addresses who you are, your intended readership, and what you hope to achieve at your site.

2. They Blog sporadically.
In other words, they publish posts whenever "the mood hits them." The result?  For readers, it's difficult to determine when and what to expect. Consequently, they're often perceived as less serious and less committed to their audience than their blogging peers. Remember, "Out of sight, out of mind."

3. They keep changing their blog.
Okay, I'm the first to admit that in the infancy of my blogging career, I made more revisions to this site than an overzealous editor! I changed the colors, the template, and even my strategy. I think we all must do this until we find a "place of comfort." But doing so every few months, can be confusing, and "dilute" your marketing/branding message, more than enhance it. For example, wouldn't you be confused if "Tony The Tiger" (on your cereal)  was replaced with Kevin the Clown? Or if your can of Coke were changed to pink and yellow, instead of the traditional red? 

4. They try to blog about too many unrelated topics simultaneously.
Sure, "variety is the spice of life." But when it comes to blog branding, sticking to a specific theme,  topic, or approach is best. It also increases the likelihood that advertisers will know what your site is about, for potential partnerships. Unless it's a lifestyle blog, a commentary blog, or one that is recreational in nature. For example, most folks that follow this blog know that aside from writing, I have a passion for cooking. As such, from time to time, I pen posts that show the correlation between cooking and writing, to stay on point. Another alternative here, (if you want to mix things up a bit), is to designate a specific day of the week or month to go "off topic" and label it accordingly.

5. They make their blogs more about them than their readers.
There's no doubt about it: Blogs should be somewhat "promotional" in nature. Still, in order for readers to keep coming back, there has to be take-away value for them as well. Hello? Sure, if you are a "celebrity blogger" people may want to know about what you ate for breakfast, where you shop, your successes, and the intimate details of your love life; but those of us that are "mere mortals" have to do much more to merit their time and readership. Are you with me? :-)

In conclusion here, blog branding is a great way to establish your expertise, stand out in your niche area, and stay relevant. Keep these five timely tips in mind, to make fewer mstakes and greater progress, moving forward. 

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

Image courtsey of: Freedigitalphotos.net

Monday, November 9, 2015

Motivation Monday* Quotes to Live, Learn & Write by


Happy Monday, Readers! I hope you're off to a wonderful week, and making progress in your NANOWRIMO goals. To provide some inspiration and motivation to carry you through the days ahead, and to get those creative juices flowing, I offer some of my favorite quotes on writing, life, and the writing life.

Do enjoy!  
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
---Benjamin Franklin                                       
"The greatest revenge is to accomplish what others say you cannot do."
"Don't regret what might have been. Accept what is and rejoice in what is yet to be."
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
---Eleanor Roosevelt
"It is in the company of a good friend that the heart finds a home."
"The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary."
---J.K. Rowling
"Don't just "write for yourself." That type of self-indulgence should be reserved for your personal journal. Great, effective writing takes the readers' needs into account. Always."
--- Jennifer Brown Banks
"When choosing between two evils, I always like to take the one I've never tried before."
---Mae West

"When your mind is full of indecision, try thinking with your heart."

"To whom much is given, much is required."
---The Bible

"If you can learn from hard knocks, you can also learn from soft touches."
---Carolyn Kenmore

"Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit."
---Napoleon Hill

Wishing you a positive, productive week!

Any of these quotes resonate with you? What's your favorite personal quote?
Do you incorporate quotes in your writing?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What's Your Social Media I.Q.? How to Align the Right Forum to Your Creative Goals

In an effort to reconnect and encourage repeat business, I emailed a former client to get a “status report” on what she had accomplished since we last spoke.
She excitedly told me that she had shut down her blog, and was instead using Instagram to build her platform and her fan base. She boasted that she had garnered dozens of followers to date.

Bad move. Based upon the goals that she had previously shared. But not uncommon for today’s writers and bloggers bombarded with an array of social media options and opportunities.

There’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIN, Pinterest and Google+. And new ones are cropping up all the time. Variety might be the "spice of life," but there’s a downside here. Not knowing how to align social media forums correctly to your creative goals, means you will waste time, hinder progress, burn out quicker, and rob yourself of countless hours that could be devoted to other marketing and money-making pursuits. Not managed correctly, it can be a real “time suck.” “And time is money.”

There’s a better way. Here’s a “cheat sheet” to determine the best use of your marketing time and efforts, to help you become more social media savvy and profitable in days ahead.
But before we explore, try this Social Media I.Q. Quiz, to find out where you stand.

1. All social media options are created equally.
2. In order to make social media work, it’s important to “engage” for two hours every day.
3. Social media is the only way to “win friends and influence people.”
4. FaceBook is the best forum for searching for clients?

If you answered False to All of the above questions, move to the head of the class.

Now for that CHEAT SHEET

This micro-blogging (140 characters) marketing tool is like the “fast food” of communications. It’s quick and convenient, and doesn’t require a great investment of time and money. It’s ideal for creating a buzz and sharing useful links; but not necessarily for creating meaningful dialogue, establishing your expertise, or making money. Used in tandem with other marketing tools, however, it could have significant impact. One social media guru shares: “If you Tweet something, it’s kind of like throwing a message in a bottle into the ocean, isn’t it? You don’t really know who will read it … or if anyone will. However, if somebody subscribes to a blog or YouTube channel, they are asking for your content. There is a good chance they will actually see it.”

FaceBook is perhaps the most popular of all the social media options. It’s ideal for showing your social side, sharing images, connecting with friends, creating dialogue and debating hot topics. Can also be used to place ads to market certain aspects of your business. It can be likened to casual dating. Easy, fun, with an array of opportunities and chance meetings. Not typically the best place to cultivate serious client relationships; although results may vary. One thing to consider here as well, is that you just never know what a friend, associate, “rival” or family member will post or disclose in your forum. I’ve seen some pretty raunchy and misplaced “conversations,” along with images that were in poor taste, displayed on other’s pages. And it’s not unheard of for folks to sometimes engage in “FaceBook wars.” Be forewarned.

Designed for photo sharing, posting videos and social networking. Essentially, it allows users to share their images and creativity via multiple platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Used quite often by the “Generation Y” to keep in touch with friends and share “Selfies”. I am of the opinion that it’s more recreational than professional in nature. And as such, would not support many business goals. Has your experience been different here?

LinkeDIn is a great forum for freelance networking and showcasing professional achievements. Allows users to look for creative gigs, display their credentials, and even allows for peers and clients to endorse your services and provide testimonials. Additionally, it enables others to view your business connections and who’s within your “circle.” And as they say: “You are judged by the company you keep.” Though I have not used it often, author and blogger Marcie Hill states that: “It is one of the best social networking tools” she has found for making money and achieving business objectives. It’s also great for joining supportive groups that share your particular interests or industry.

Think of it as an online “bulletin board”. It’s very visually-centric. Participants post or “pin” collections of their favorite things, which can range from: recipes, crafts, links to articles, and other goodies. It’s great for growing an audience and sharing creative ideas. Can be successfully used by hobbyists, as well as entrepreneurs. For a more detailed account on social media and how to approach it strategically, check out this informative post at the Businesses Grow site :


Additionally, to optimize your efforts, you should have a Social Media Marketing Plan in place that establishes how many hours you will devote to your goals on a weekly basis, which platforms you'll incorporate, and what you hope to achieve.

Your turn...

What are your thoughts here? What's your favorite social media platform?
Do you agree or disagree with this social media assessment?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What You Need to Know About NaNoWriMO for Greater Odds for Success This Year!

November has become synonymous with NaNoWriMo, when writers from around the country come together as one community to write 50,000 words in 30 days. At about 1667 words per day, for many it can take motivation, discipline and a little planning to reach the required word count. While for others, the month offers an opportunity to be creative without any expectations.

Hammering out a first draft of 50,000 words in one month is most writers’ dream. Planning to undertake NaNoWriMo, however, already shows commitment that you’re taking your writing seriously. But once the writing starts in earnest, many writers can face obstacles, distractions and maybe even be tempted to give up when they’re feeling creatively blocked and maybe a little fatigued. Perhaps it’s even you.

Fortunately, Stop Procrastinating, the productivity website, has surveyed 2000 NaNoWriMo writers ahead of this year’s challenge to find out what kept them going until the very end. The findings are enlightening and practical. From undertaking a little planning before hand, to doing a little writing on your lunch break and learning how to write anywhere, the strategies are sure to help many undertaking the challenge this year to successfully reach the 50,000 goal.
Stop Procrastinating has assembled all the results in the infographic below.

Guest Post Submitted by Stephen Bennett

Are any of these findings surprising? Will you participate this month? What will you approach differently? Do tell.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Miscellaneous Monday/Links, Updates & Info to Keep You Informed...

Happy Monday!
I hope you're enjoying a fabulous fall, steeped in abundant blessings.
Here's the 4-1-1 for what's happening in October, along with items of interest.


When most of us think about days of observance for October, what typically comes to mind are the Halloween and Columbus Day holidays. True?

But did you know...
  • That October is designated as National Chili Month? That's right! What a great time to whip up something  hearty, warm and delicious for the cooler weather and the sports season. (Go Cubs!) :-)The possibilities are endless. Chili dogs, Chili dips, Vegetarian Chili, 4-alarm Chili. It even makes a great theme for a party or pot-luck gathering. Be creative here! 
  • October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Statistics show that 1 in 4 women will be impacted by domestic violence in her lifetime. There are many ways to  advocate, donate, and learn more about organizations and activities purposed to help those who have been victimized. You'll find an array of helpful resources and literature at www.inamaegreene.org.
  • Writers Digest is a popular, paying market that accepts articles and essays on the writing life. The publication considers both queries and full manuscripts. For their guidelines, visit their site at Writers Digest.com.  
  • Want to share your story of inspiration to help others and make a difference? Having Time.com seeks submissions of 600-1200 words for their readership devoted to personal growth and motivation. See details here: http://www.havingtime.com/submit-post/
  • Effective December 1st, Pen and Prosper becomes a paying market. Just a reminder that I will pay for guest posts here, at a starting rate of ten dollars. You'll discover more about why I decided to move in this direction at my recent post over at Wow! Though ten bucks won't put a dent in your mortgage, it's my way of thanking you for your time and contributions. And minimally, it can help to replenish that chocolate stash! Interested? Get in touch at Gemsjen@yahoo.com   
  • Writing-World.com will be shutting down its newsletter in December, and is no longer accepting submissions via their website.
  • My blogging buddy Karen @ Write Now is sponsoring a fun book give-away at her site. Check out the details provided here: http://karenelange.blogspot.com/

" Nothing is impossible to a willing heart."---John Heywood
"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."--- Richard Steele
"No legacy is so rich as honesty."---William Shakespeare

Pen and Prosper will take a brief vacation break. Please join me for more tips, tools, and techniques to enhance your career and your blogging experience, when I return on November 2, 2015.
Feel free to stay in touch in the interim.  Leave comments and questions; you know I always love to hear from you. I'll be checking in periodically.

Have a safe, fun-filled Halloween!