Anna's Alcove

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Tag: freelance

What is your niche?

When you want to write for a website or guest blog, or even when you manage a website of your own, you need to have what is called a “niche.”

“What is a ‘niche,’?” you may ask.

The definition in the dictionary is as follows:

1. a shallow recess, especially one in a wall to display a statue or other ornament.
2. place or position (something) in a niche.

Ok, so to put something on display is kind of like showcasing what you know (so to speak). When a person knows a lot about a certain topic and is passionate about it (or at least very interested in learning more about it), they usually try to find a way to share it with the world.

When I started my blog for an editorial college class, I wasn’t sure how or when I would use it in the future. But then I started posting the articles I wrote as they were published in the school newspaper and moved on to writing about whatever came to mind, whether it be biblical, book-based or whatever inspired me to write.

That seemed to work pretty well at the time and helped to boost my readership as posts were published month to month.

Now comes the tricky part. I want to get into freelance writing, but most websites that are looking for guest bloggers/writers want us to declare a particular niche, a certain topic that we’re specialized in.

My husband sent me an article titled “The Surprising Benefits (and Pitfalls) of Being a Jack-of-All-Trades,” which talks about those of us who are interested and knowledgable about a variety of topics.

What was the solution?

“Take your time and pick a couple things to focus on.”

Just because you’re interested in a number of topics and activities doesn’t mean you can become a short-term specialist in that area. Pick a topic and start researching. Make that your hobby for several weeks or a couple months and see what you can learn.

DSCN3678Do you enjoy food? Then cook, take photographs, jot down notes of the things you changed in the recipe and write about it! Are you into photography? Then go out into the world and snap some pictures, research terms like “aperture” and “depth of field” and post it online with a short (or long) explanation about what you did for each picture. Enjoy playing with kids? Then write some tips about what you do to keep them entertained, healthy snacks that they’ll enjoy and educational games that enhance their thinking process.

There’s a world of opportunity out there waiting to be studied! The only thing that will make it stand out from similar posts on the Internet is by making it your own. No one can think like you do, see the world like you do, crack jokes like you do or explain an interest like you do.

I encourage you (and myself) to start becoming a short-term specialist in one of the many areas that catch your interest 🙂 Who knows… you may discover something you just can’t get enough of!

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5 ways to hone your writing skills

Freelance writer. Freelance photographer.

Sounds so professional, right?

But how does one go about becoming either one of those?

I did a little poking around the Internet this past week and came across a website called Innovative Ink, created by Elna, another beginner freelance writer, and found a series she wrote called “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies.” There was a number of valuable details about honing your skills as a writer, getting your name out there, landing a client, determining your rates and writing a contract.

Here are some of the points that caught my attention:

1. Portfolio

Many journalism students are strongly encouraged to keep everything they write throughout their college career, no matter how big or small it may be. Why? Because it can be added to their portfolio. Everything you write is a sample of what you can do.

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As a college student, I was a reporter for the school paper and kept PDFs of every piece I wrote. Which was great, but I graduated from college three years ago and haven’t really written an article since then. I had dealt with plenty of online briefs and press releases during my employment at The Morning Call in Allentown, but I have nothing to show for it except for my knowledge and experience.

So how do you keep building your portfolio?

2. Blogging

Why blog? Because it’s a way to determine where you fit in the interwebs. What is your niche? What are you passionate about? What inspires you to write? It took me a while to figure that one out, but soon I would hear a quote or a song or snap a picture of a breathtaking view and suddenly I was inspired to write a 6 paragraph or longer blog post in under an hour. Anything you write can be used in your portfolio, whether it be professional writing or for fun. So, if you’re not in school or don’t write something new every day for work, do it on your down time in the evenings or on the weekends at home.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. Write Daily

This is very important. If writers make it a point to write something every day – a paragraph, their rambling thoughts, a letter – it’s almost guaranteed that their writing will improve and they’ll be able to figure out what their niche is as a writer. Do you have an interest? Write about it. Do you like to cook or bake? Write about it. How about that crazy awesome book series you just finished? Write about it! (just don’t give away the ending)

4. Guest blogging

This is similar to the second point, but the difference is that it’s for another person, not for yourself. I’ve always wondered how to get into writing on another blog. When I started researching how to become a freelance writer, many sites suggested being a guest blogger. Ok, but how do I go about finding blogs that I can write for? That’s where Innovative Ink helped. She listed Google searches to try and a way to sign up for opportunities to guest blog for money (yes, apparently that is a thing at beafreelanceblogger.com). It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and letting the cyber world know what you’re capable of before you fly solo and land your own clients.

5. Social Media

This has already been a major part of getting the word out about my blog. I’ve been working on my blog since 2011 and it contains a wide variety of writing samples – poetry, devotionals, short story, news articles, features and more. By the time I moved my blog over to this website, I was nearly at 7000 views! That’s all from sharing my latests posts on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Google profiles. What I learned from blogging for fun is that social media has to be a big factor in getting the word out about my freelance career, my clients and what I can offer to the world as a writer and photographer.

So there you have it. Be creative! Write! Build that portfolio and have fun with it 🙂

I would highly recommend checking out the “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies” series, as it has helped me to form a game plan for starting my career as a freelance writer.

Thanks for reading!

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And so the adventure begins…

Welcome to my new site!! Here’s the story of how it got started and my plans and dreams for what it could become in the future:

Everything was going fine and dandy. I had just married the man I love, we had a wonderful, relaxing honeymoon in the Poconos and, with both of our full-time jobs, we were well on our way to paying off debt by the end of the year.

But it didn’t last long. The week after the honeymoon, I was back at my desk in the newsroom, trying to make some sense of the hundred or so emails I had received,  when I was called into the conference room. There the head editor and my boss gave me the bad news: the company was downsizing again and they were forced to cut my position.

As any normal person would be, I was bummed that I lost my job and the steady income, but I knew in the back of my mind that God has an ultimate plan in all of this…

.. but it was nice having the extra money.

Anyway, after spending a week getting our house set up and wedding gifts put away, I took the first step of job hunting, applied for unemployment and registered my name, email and resume with two career search sites: JobGateway.com and Monster.com.

In order to get job openings that you may be interested in, the sites recommend setting up “saved searches,” which are ongoing searches according to your pre-set career choice and where you would prefer to work. I set mine to “administrative assistant,” “writer” and “editor” near Doylestown and Quakertown and selected the daily email alerts option.

DSCN2507This was a helpful tool. I get emails every day, letting me know if there are new opportunities to apply for jobs in the area, but there are days where there is nothing new.

It is now week three, I’ve applied to at least 10-12 jobs and have either been told that they’re looking at more qualified candidates or haven’t heard anything back from them.

Then I got to thinking – what if this is my opportunity to get my dream of being a freelance writer, editor and photographer off the ground? I already have a blog that’s been an off-and-on thing since I was a junior in college and my husband created a website for me (ta-da!) to use as a foundation for freelancing and photography.

There’s so much a person can do with a writing major, including editing books and articles for publishing, so I’ll be writing weekly updates on my journey toward a career in freelance, as well as other wonderings and ponderings about life.

As I discover what works, what doesn’t work and how to establish your writing in the world of freelancing, I hope this becomes a helpful resource to those interested in a career in freelance writing.

Thanks for reading!

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Cancer Survivor Issues Wake Up Call

Photo courtesy of Paige Omartian

In life or death situations, it can be easy to blame God for what’s happening, to sink down into a state of depression and lose all hope of ever being able to go back to living a normal life. Paige Omartian, a 22-year-old Christian speaker, author, and singer, knows how tempting it is to despair. Doctors diagnosed Omartian with cancer when she was just 11-years-old. But as she struggled for her life, Omartian found strength through her faith, emerging with a different perspective on life and a new sense of purpose.

During her illness, Omartian got the chance, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to go to Nashville, Tenn., and record a Christian album. Some of her songs made their way onto the Bath & Body Works 2005 Holiday CD.

After losing all of her hair to chemotherapy, having to use a wheelchair because she had trouble walking, and enduring the pain that comes with cancer treatments, Omartian finally got a clean bill of health in 2002. Ten years later, she is still cancer free.

In 2007, the year before she was supposed to graduate from Plumstead Christian High School, in Plumsteadville, Pa., Omartian moved to Nashville and joined iShine Live, a national tour of speakers and musicians reaching out to a young teenage audience. At the same time, Omartian signed with Whiplash Records and released her first rock album, “Wake Up.” Several of her songs, including “Episode” and “Wake Up,” made it to Christian music’s Top 30.

Recently, through Harvest House Publishers, Omartian signed a contract to publish her first book, called “Wake Up, Generation.” It is scheduled for release in August. Using Bible verses and her own personal testimony, Omartian hopes to reach out to young people and help them to discover their God-given mission: “If you’re still breathing, there’s a reason why you’re still here,” Omartian recently told readers on her blog (paigehasastory.wordpress.com).

Anna Tielmann 

*Author’s note –  If you want to read the Q&A section, you can find the full story at World on Campus (but you have to be registered in order to view the entire thing) 

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Don’t Smother Me!

DSCN2399Jessie Schwartz grew up in a non-Christian home, where she witnessed what drugs, and drinking did to people she loved. Unlike some of her friends, who grew up in the protective bubble of a Christian community, Schwartz wasn’t surprised by the influences and temptations she found on a secular college campus. But her friends had no way of knowing what they were up against.

Many young adults raised in the church are growing up isolated from the world around them. Their parents might think they are creating a safe space for their children’s faith to grow, but a new study reveals they might be setting them up for disillusionment and failure.

According to the findings of a research study recently released by the Barna Group, 59 percent of young adults disconnect from the church in their teen years. Many study participants told researchers they stopped attending church because it was not always open to discussing how to relate faith to real world issues.

Of those who listed the church’s isolation from the culture as a problem, almost one quarter complained that Christians were too quick to “demonize everything outside the church.” Twenty-two percent said the church ignored the problems of the real world, and 18 percent said “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful.”

David Sanford, a freshman at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania said churches too often refuse to step out of their comfort zone to test their faith against the modern world. “They seem to have their own safe bubble that they stay in,” he said.

Micah Reed, a sophomore at Edinboro, agreed that some churches don’t do enough for the younger generation. “People don’t seem to venture out,” he said. Churches aren’t always welcoming to outsiders, much less a place to discuss what’s going on in the world, he said.

Schwartz, who also is a sophomore at Edinboro, said churches and parents should do more to prepare their children for what they will encounter in the “real world,” instead of keeping them solely in a Christian community.

“The only way to rectify this is to get out of our holy huddle and start reaching out to the lost,” Schwartz said. Churches hold plenty of Bible studies and dinners for their members, but in reality, it’s just “a place where we can all get together and be friends,” Schwartz said.

Sanford also encouraged churches to spend more time reaching out to the communities around them.
“They should train the people that they are sending out in order to better equip them to take on the world,” he said.

The Barna Group’s study suggests that some church leaders ignore the concerns and issues of teens and those in their twenties because they think the church disconnect will end when young adults are older, said David Kinnaman, president of the research organization based in Ventura, Calif.

In his latest book, You Lost Me, Kinnaman says the concerns young Christians raise about church and culture could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families.

“In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes,” Kinnaman said.

This is the first in a series of six stories exploring the major themes of the Barna Group study about why young adults leave the church. Coming tomorrow: Just skimming the surface – Young Christians who want more of God say the church is too shallow.

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