Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My Writing Day

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Linda Jones of wrote an entertaining and fascinating post this week called “My writing day”, which basically does what it says on the tin: it describes a day in the life of a freelance writer, editor and mom.

I love posts like these that dive into the nitty gritty of one specific person’s experience. It just goes to show how everyone’s is different. While Linda is dealing with her 12-year-old twins and responding to pitches, others have different responsibilities.

So here’s my writing day, written based on today. Of course, this changes every day, but such is the life of a freelancer – always changing, never predictable, but always free.

My writing day

Home office

I wake up at 5:15am because I’m a morning person. As soon as I’m awake I think of all the things I have to do. This is both exciting and annoying.

I get out of bed, turn on the kettle and prop my laptop on the kitchen counter. There I stand for the next hour drinking a cup of tea and finishing whatever it was I started the night before. Today it was a short blog post on composting. I do my best writing in the morning.

After my tea I’m feeling a little more energetic, so head to the gym to lift some weights. I’m tired today. Sore. Could have used more sleep. But I push on, and feel good for having done something (one is better than zero).

Then I come home and have a smoothie and a cup of decaf coffee. By now it’s 8:15am and the dog is giving me that “is it time to go for a walk yet?” look, so I give in and take him for a half hour romp in the fields.

Home again. The need to start working is nagging at me. But toast with almond butter and tea sound nice. So I get that all set up, and as the clouds descent on what was a sunny day, I decide this is a good day to work from bed.

It’s just past 9am. Right. In my mind I list three things I’ve been meaning to do – follow up with an editor on an unpaid invoice, email one of my clients with some edits to some marketing material, and write a proposal for another client for a bit of social media writing I want to do. I tell myself “get it done in an hour”. And I push.

I make the 1-hour deadline, and it’s on to the next thing: a blog post due Wednesday for another client. This one requires some research. I both love and hate research. It’s fun searching Google and reading about things, but it always feels like fake work for me. Nevermind, I can charge for it. Life is good.

Research is exhausting, even when done in bed. So I stretch my legs with another dog walk, and decide it’s time for lunch. Or rather, brunch. It’s only 11:30am, but I’m famished. Over the weekend I made some salsa and sauteed a bunch of onion, potato and green pepper. This made brunch a simple matter of heating up the potato mixture, adding egg and salsa, and viola: a mexican scrambled egg concoction that really hit the spot. Quick but nutritious lunches are essential for the busy freelancer – I often get the nutritious part right, but not so much the “quick” part. Such is the joy of working from home – ultimate freedom to make involved lunches of fresh baked breads, complicated soups and endless salads with homemade vinaigrettes. But then – whoops! – the day is gone, and nothing got done.

I did not fall into that trap today.

Back to work (and back to bed). There’s an instant message from a client. He’s got two requests: one for a bit of copywriting for his website, the other a blog post. I say “I’ll have this done by 3pm” because I like to set myself deadlines. This keeps me busy for a couple of hours. Then I have a call with another client whose blog I write for to discuss content for the week. It’s getting late in the afternoon, and my creativity starts to wane. Time for another dog walk.

Back at home I’m not in the mood for much writing, so I do some networking instead. I check in on Twitter where I am once again overwhelmed by the numerous online presences I’ve created for myself and promise to make time to consolidate it all at some point. But not right now, because we’re approaching the dinner hour. Time to relax with some Radio 6 and a vegetable-chopping session.

I feed the dog and feed myself then clean up and turn on the kettle. It’s the home stretch and I like to use my evenings to work on fun projects like photography or SmarterFitter. Today, it’s Writer’s Residence. So I wrote this. But I probably won’t publish it until the morning, so I can give it once last look with fresh eyes. Then again, I’m feeling sassy tonight – maybe I’ll just go for it.

Unfortunately, getting up at 5:15am means I’m pretty wiped by about 8:30pm… which was 13 minutes ago. So I make myself a cup of tea, and then tell Jay dog that “it’s time for sleep”. Dog gets a floor cuddle before the end of the day, so I sit on the floor with him and tell him he’s a good boy until he gets over excited and I say “fine, be that way.” Then I get into bed with my tea and a book – Margaret Atwood’s “Blind Assassin” at the moment. But I usually only get through a few pages before I pass out like a lump.

Graphic: The Writing Process

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Ed Yong of Discover Magazine recently published this brilliant graphical representation of the process of writing a feature. Can you relate? I know I can, with a particularly long stop at the “it seems I’ve forgotten how to write” stage.


New Feature: Upload your head shot or logo to the About Me page

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Another feature win by popular demand.  As of today,  you have the ability to upload your head shot or logo to the About Me page.

Simply log in to Writers Residence and click on the About Me page.  From the bottom of the page click on the Browse button.  Select the photo or logo you want to upload, then click Save.

Now click on the ‘view site’ link and see how it looks.

We hope you enjoy this feature, as it provides another way for you to personalise your portfolio.

If you have any questions, or need assistance please contact

Updates to the Writer’s Residence blogging tool

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

We’ve had a blog feature in beta for a couple of months.

I’ve just added a couple of new features:

  1. Pagination: your blogs will now show 10 posts per page and there is are pager links at the bottom of the screen. This is also true in the Writer’s Residence management screens.
  2. Disqus comments: I’ve added an integration with a blog comment service called Disqus. This will let you add comments to your Writer’s Residence blog by signing up for the free Disqus service and then updating your Writer’s Residence settings to let us know what your Disqus “site shortname” is.

Pagination is pretty self explanatory and is a common feature in all blogs but getting Disqus commenting up and running needs a little further explanation.

Setting up Disqus comments for Writer’s Residence is a two step process.

First, Disqus is a third-party service so you need to create an account with them. Sign up at the Disqus registration page and take note of the site shortname you enter when you create your account, you’ll use this to tell Writer’s Residence about your Discus account.

Now, log in to Writer’s Residence, click the “Settings” link at the top right corner and then click the “Blog comments” link. Enter your Disqus “site shortname” in the box and click “Save”.

Your Writer’s Residence blog now has comments!

Writer’s Residence PayPal Subscriptions

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Writer’s Residence uses PayPal to manage monthly subscription payments.

Unfortunately a number of our customers have been having problems with PayPal when they get a new credit card or bank account.

This is a quick guide to making sure your PayPal account is configured correctly so PayPal can continue to draw monthly subscription payments from your account.

If you need help at any point with this please get hold of us: or UK: +44 (0)220 7193 3255 or USA: +1 (312) 239-0765.

First check that your Credit/Debit cards are up to date. Log in to PayPal. Click “My Account” then “Profile” and then “Credit/Debit Cards”.

Profile Summary - PayPal-2-2

Make sure all your credit/debit cards are up-to-date and remove any cards that are expired.

Credit cards - PayPal-2

Now that you’re sure all your cards are current check your subscription settings. Click My Account, then Profile and My pre-approved payments.

Profile Summary - PayPal-3-2

Next click the subscription from The Freedom Partnership:

Recurring payments dashboard - PayPal-2

In this screen make sure the credit card or bank account selected as the funding source is up-to-date and valid.

Subscription Details - PayPal-4

Now that you’ve confirmed your PayPal account is set up correctly and that there are no expired cards the next time PayPal attempts to take payment things should work fine.

If your payment fails again please contact PayPal and ask them why the transaction is failing. They should be able to help you reconfigure your account so that the next payment is successful. Unfortunately PayPal will not talk to us about your account, for security and privacy reasons.

Some customers have experienced their subscriptions being cancelled while configuring their accounts at PayPal, in the case that this occurs please log in to Writer’s Residence and subscribe again. Your website will be reinstated and none of your work will have been lost.

f you have further problems get in touch with us again and we’ll make sure your account doesn’t expire while we’re trying to sort this out.


Tim and Monica

Writer’s Residence

My Interview on Novelists, Inc.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Freelance writer and Web designer Monica Shaw.jpg

A few months ago, marketing expert Penny Sansevieri told us how important it is that authors have a website as part of their marketing machine. This goes for new authors, as well as authors who have already been published. In fact, it’s crucial that multi-published authors have websites so that they can present their catalogue of work in one unified place. So naturally, I was really excited when Novelists, Inc., the international organisation for multi-published authors, contacted me for an interview about websites and online portfolios for authors.

They just published the interview on their blog today and I encourage you to take a look. In addition to advice about writing and websites, I also had the chance to talk about health, fitness and even mathematics. It’s an eclectic interview, that’s for sure, but all the more enjoyable for it.

So thanks Novelists, Inc. for the opportunity. It’s a thrill to be featured on your website.

Read the interview: Freelance writer and Web designer Monica Shaw

Server Maintenance Upgrade

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Tomorrow we’ll be moving servers which will require us to take the server down for an hour at most.

Why are we doing this?
We’re moving to a new server at a new hosting location so that we can provide you with better service. Our existing host is having some problems and sometimes the server is inaccessible. This is not acceptable.

What does this mean for you?
Nothing. You won’t have to change a thing. During the changeover you might experience the occasional problem. If you experience any continuing problems, please contact and we’ll sort you out.

The switch will occur Sunday, September 27 at 7am GMT.

New! Track visits to your portfolio with Google Analytics

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

We’ve added Google Analytics support to Writer’s Residence so that you can keep track of visits to your website.

Google Analytics is a free Google product that gives you stats on where your web traffic is coming from.

You can sign up for Analytics here:

Google will give you a web property ID when you sign up. It will look something like ‘UA-512321-1’ and you’ll want to enter that into the Google Analytics Web Property ID field on the settings page in Writer’s Residence.

Here’s where you’ll find the Web Property ID while signing up for Analytics:

Contact us if you have any trouble setting this up and we’ll help you out.


-Tim & Monica

Can Writers be Purple Cows?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008


I just finished reading the book Purple Cow by Seth Godin. Seth argues that the only way to sell a product in today’s overcrowded marketplace is to create something truly remarkable.

My goal in Purple Cow is to make it clear that it’s safer to be risky –to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about.

I recently reviewed his book on SmarterFitter, where I wrote that many Purple Cow ideas can also be applied to health and fitness. Strangely, I’m having a harder time applying these rules to freelance writing, an actual business!

Can writers be Purple Cows? In the freelance world, it seems difficult, especially for new writers. Can we really afford to pass up paying jobs waiting for something remarkable to come along? Or is the whole concept of “remarkable” simply relative to the competition?

Seth actually discusses how Purple Cow thinking applies to freelance writers on his blog. He writes about “Bradley”, a freelance writer, who told Seth that Purple Cow thinking didn’t apply to his profession because all of his clients want average work. In response, Seth observed that there are loads writers out there who seem to get paid way too much for the effort they put in. How do these writers get those gigs?

It’s because they stand for something. Because they are at the edges. Because if an editor wants a ‘Bob-Jones-type’ article, she has to call Bob Jones for it… and pay Bob’s fees. Bob would fail if he did average work for average editors just to make a living. But by turning down the average stuff and insisting on standing for something on the edge, he profits. By challenging his clients to run stuff that makes them nervous (and then having them discover that it’s great), he profits.

This is scary. It’s really scary to turn down most (the average) of what comes your way and hold out for the remarkable opportunities. Scary to quit your job at an average company doing average work just because you know that if you stay, you’ll end up just like them. Scary to go way out on an edge and intentionally make what you do unattractive to some.

Which is why it’s such a great opportunity.

Seth added to this in an recent comment on Renegade Writer, where he suggests “If I could offer one idea, it would be to become ultra-specialized.”

Interestingly, other commenters point out that simple professionalism is rare enough in the writing world that simply adhering to deadlines and running spell-check is enough to be considered “remarkable”.

“Get articles in on time, according to spec, and error free,” says Brian Westover of WriterSpot, “that alone will purple your cow considerably.”

Cathleen of LoudWriter adds, “it’s not just any kind of professionalism that will make you go far. I’m talking about sincere, stick-to-your-word type of professionalism mixed with a healthy dash of spirit.”

I can’t argue with the importance of professionalism, but I do wonder how practical it is to be “ultra-specialized”, especially for new writers. At the moment, I spend about half my time writing for a client who isn’t in my target area of specialization, but who does send me a paycheck every month. I spend the other half chasing my specialty – pitching ideas, research, and occasionally writing an article or two. But it’s slow going and I can’t afford to give it my all.

Where do you draw the line between being a Purple Cow and making enough money to pay the bills? Is it possible to have both, even early in a writing career?

Updates to Writer’s Residence

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

We perform routine maintenance and upgrades weekly on Saturday mornings between 7am and 8am London time (GMT+1 at the moment). Today’s upgrade took 5 minutes. Future upgrades should take about the same time, all going well, but it is good to have some headroom on changes like these. Thanks for your patience, we want to keep making the site better for you.

Tim and I have had a busy week! We’re delighted to see how many new people have signed up to try Writer’s Residence but we’ve noticed that some of you folks were having a little trouble getting your websites off the ground. So we decided to put in some extra help features to hopefully make it even easier to set up your online writing portfolios.

Here’s a run-down of the changes…

Checklist in the dashboard

When you sign in to Writer’s Residence, you’ll now see a checklist on the dashboard that contains a list of all the things you can do with your website. We listed things in the order that we think makes the most sense, but you can certainly do things in any order you wish.


Improved guidance in the management screens

The management screens now contain a few extra tips and suggestions to help you fill in the required information. Once you get the idea, simply click the upper right hand corner of the box to close it forever.

More obvious notifications and easier navigation

We’ve also added some extra notifications and links to reassure you that your changes have been saved and to make it easier to see your changes.


A website address is now required

We’ve integrated the website address process into the sign up page so that customers choose their website address when signing up. From now on you’ll always have an address like, you can also set up your own domain name like

Any questions?

In addition to the site changes, we’ve also changed our UK support telephone number and added a USA number. Give us a call if you need any help! Or send an email to

UK: +44 (0)20 7558 8654
USA: +1 (312) 239-0765