Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

KID CHEFS LIKE SOUP—AND SOUP BOOKS!

Last year, I released a comedic novel, SoupChad, the tale of a boy who loves soup (and won’t tolerate kids who liked salad). It’s a fun little story, meant as an allegory about intolerance and learning to respect others who might think differently.

But SoupChad’s love of soup, I’ve discovered, is also part of the book’s niche appeal. I've received numerous emails from parents and loved ones of young chefs, expressing their child's excitement at discovering this "tasty" little book.

Kid chefs have developed an affection for this soup-foodie of a thirteen year old.

It’s a golden time for kids who cook, with numerous television programs showing off  the fine culinary skills of boys and girls as they create everything from appetizers to exotic dessert dishes.  Even Chef Gordon Ramsay is prominent in the game, with his Masterchef Junior series,  which just completed its seventh season. Gone, it seems, are the days when most kids were finicky eaters and lacked even a hint of culinary bravery.

SoupChad isn’t a book about cooking—Chad loves soup, but prefers it canned. As kids his age are prone to do, he's gone all-in on his obsession, even creating a “Soup Club” to share his soup-centric world view with doubtful classmates. He annoints club members with club names based on their favorite soup. He’s soon surrounded with kids named Noodle, Spinach and Chowder.

Kid chefs, I’m happy to say, recognize SoupChad as one of their own, while also sympathizing with the salad-loving classmates he faces in a climactic showdown.  In the end, Chad learns that while he can still love soup, there's other food to love, too! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

GigEconomy Challenges: Priming the Pump

Surviving in the Gig Economy means constantly priming the pump. 

My profile on Upwork is always a work in progress as time and new skills develop. I learn new strategies from reviewing profiles of other freelancers. I'm constantly looking for ways to better target the professional/entrepreneurial clients I seek. I read and re-read my profile. Am I pontificating too much? Am I presenting too much information? Present too much of your qualifications 

My "cover letters" on Upwork are always changing, too. They're certainly customized for individual clients, but I also look at better focusing these letters on the specific talents that I offer, and presenting my qualifications not as proof of my abilities, but as an indication of the services I can provide to the client. Again, I'm always looking for better ways to show that I offer quality, client centered services.

Over at Fiverr, where freelancers offer specific gigs, as opposed to seeking out clients who need services, I'lm constantly searching for concepts that would improve the visibility of my gigs. That means finding the right SEO: the keywords and descriptions that help people find my services when searching across the web. I've also discovered that visibility on Fiverr is directly impacted by how often I edit my gigs. Editing the description or other details seems to push my gigs upward and improve my visibility. 

I also look at gig concepts that are "out of the box." Currently, I'm offering this gig on Fiverr: This holiday season, surprise your children with a holiday tale all their own: a short story featuring some traditional elements, and customized touches that make it truly theirs. I'm offering to write a 1,500 word story that incorporates the client's children as characters in a holiday tale with one of several familiar elements (a poor orphan, a Scrooge-like figure unmoved by the holidays, for example). The idea, I hope, has some appeal. I imagine the story as a read-aloud treat sometime after gift-giving; I'll write the stories with that in mind. I'd enjoy creating the tale, and the buyer will have something unique and memorable to add to their holiday season.

My question now: Will people find the gig? I tried titling the gig, "I'll Write a Customized Holiday Story," but decided to switch it to "Christmas Story" as a more likely search term. I'll update the experiment here, and let you know if I receive one order, several orders, or no orders at all. It's worth the experiment, even if it turns out to be a learning experience.

To learn about my latest adventures in the Gig Economy, follow me on Twitter @rickflix

Monday, October 29, 2018

Welcome to the World of Chat Stories!

Some of the most interesting and unexpected gigs I've landed on Upwork have been related to creating chat stories (or text stories). If you're not familiar with this trending form of creative expression, chat stories relate tales entirely in the form of text messages. As you tap the screen dialogues appear line-by-line, as if you're eavesdropping on an actual conversation.  There's little or no prose (other than time breaks, like "ten minutes later").

Texties, which recently launched for the iPhone (and coming soon for Android - click on the link for a beta version) has been one of my most regular Upwork customers. I've written fifteen separate stories for the platform, ranging from the 3 part, 30,000 word epic "Revolution" series, which follows a group of teens as they try to defeat an evil dictator in a dystopian world, to the comedy, "Invasion of the Meklaks," in which fans on the set of their favorite science fiction TV program suspect that their favorite show may actually be more than makeup and special effects. I've written in genres ranging from comedy to science fiction, horror and even some drama.

Chat stories are a fun challenge. The settings and all the action have to be related entirely through dialogue. Additionally, stories need to unfold in such a way that it makes sense for characters to communicate through texting (as opposed to a verbal conversation). Building and creating tension is tricky—action is even trickier. When it works, though, it has a sense of immediacy that's all it's own.

Let me know what you think!



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Global Freelancing on Upwork: One Year Later

This month, I’m celebrating one year of building my presence as a global freelancer. Using established sites, I’ve worked to expand my client list from a narrow local base to a broad worldwide clientele. Where locally, I provided only media-related production and editing, my global freelancing career has allowed me to offer a wide range of writing services. In this twelfth month of global freelancing, I’ve achieved my goal: remote clients account for nearly 100% of my income—and I’m convinced that’s just the tip of the iceberg

After trying several alternatives, my platform of choice is Upwork.com, where businesses and individuals post their needs, and Upwork-screened freelancers (like myself) respond with a cover letter and relevant work examples to win the assignment. I have had the opportunity to work with a wider range of professionals and entrepreneurs than I would have otherwise. I have the opportunity to put all of my talents to work, instead of a select few.

My writing assignments have included professional biographies, recommendation letters, resignation letters, product descriptions, nonprofit mission statements, corporate website content, dozens of short stories and “chat stories,” numerous proposals and pitches for documentary video content, and production-ready scripts for educational and corporate videos.

I also provide video editing services, including corporate videos, YouTube content, training videos and premium quality celebratory videos (a photo and video montage marking a birthday or memorial, for example).

Corporate clients have included a wide range of spirited entrepreneurs, from those designing small tech start-ups to the founder/CEO of a vast corporation providing energy infrastructure. Individuals have also hired me for a range of tasks—one man in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia asked me to write a science fiction story for his son’s sixteenth birthday. I’ve worked for numerous online learning corporations, conceptualizing, writing, and in one case presenting content (offering my experience as a self-published author). Upwork gold is a repeat client—and I have had quite a few as both a writer and editor.
 
One of my Upwork gigs involved teaching
an online writing course.
Reaching this point has taken a great deal of hard work—requiring a commitment to adopting global freelancing as my profession. What started out as a side experiment only became truly viable when it became a full-time effort (I still work with local clients, though selectively).

In my case, another key piece of the puzzle was my decision to seek out training to use Upwork effectively. My thanks to Claudia Holcombe and the Barefoot Consultants program for providing excellent guidance on designing my Upwork profile, seeking and winning the best jobs, and other intricacies of becoming a successful global freelancer. If you’re serious about making this financially viable, training will get you up to speed right away.

Global freelancing (I’ve served clients in Kiev, Moscow, Saudi Arabia, Panama, Mexico, Canada, Australia and across the United States) isn’t simply a new direction in my career—it’s an entirely new dimension—and only increasing in potential. I can't say whether it's the future of employment - but it's my future.


You can check out my Upwork profile at https://www.upwork.com/fl/richsamuels (scroll down to the bottom for an indication of why I love my clients!) - and follow me @rickflix for more updates.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Writing for a Living: A Career Trajectory That Just Seems Right

Here's an update on my efforts to grow in the "Gig Economy."

My online writing services have touched on so many areas and served a wide range of clients in the past few months, It keeps the process interesting and continues to expand my network (and my horizons!)

I've been writing:

1 - "chat stories" for various smartphone apps.
2 - A vision statement for a non-profit organization creating an anti-bullying workshop.
3 - An "executive summary" tracing a corporation's service to a troublesome client
4 - A curriculum for a video production workshop for teens
5 - A logline and synopsis for a short documentary
6 - Narration for another short documentary.
7 - A short story "legend" for a cartoon character serving as a trademark for a clothing company [check out this article from Upwork about Brand Storytelling]
8 - A job seeker's introductory email to a prospective employer.
9 - Several short biographies for corporate websites
10 - Several serialized short stories: a thriller, a murder mystery, action/adventure, science fiction...the list goes on.

Until I jumped into remote freelancing, I hadn't offered writing services as part of my freelance toolbox. Now, they're a major part of my activity (and a growing part of my income. To use the vernacular, writing is my "super power."

Several of these jobs have generated return business—in many ways, that's the key to making this process work. New clients + Return Clients = Positive Cash Flow. Simple equation, but true. One client has hired me for eleven unique, well paying jobs.

At this point, ten months in, I'm still learning best practices to continue my growth. The process is slower than I would hope, but steady and building. Working online may be convenient, but don't believe the hype: it's still hard work.

(If I can be of service, contact me via my Fiverr Account)


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I'm finding It: Upping My Game in the Gig Economy

Six months in, my experience with Global Freelancing is going well. I've made considerable progress, and I'm confident that I can continue to increase my online business.

The milestones:


  • I've reached the "Top Rated" level on Upwork, which means that my ratings from clients are above 90% (in fact, they're at 100%), and I've met criteria ranging from total earnings and responsiveness to consistent availability. 
  • I've reached "Level One" status on Fiverr, which also means I've reached a level of success similar to Upwork. There are two further levels to achieve.
In both cases, leveling up means higher visibility and access to a higher level of customer service. Personnel at Upwork will also email leads to jobs that may be particularly appropriate for my talents and experience.

The jobs have been diverse and challenging. They've included chat-stories, short stories, professional biographies, videos edited for social media, a storybook for elementary school-age children, and professional letters for a variety of purposes.

Building From Here

As I work to improve my online presence on both platforms, I'm taking a series of steps:
  • I've taken a one-on-one course on optimizing my efforts on Upwork, including improving my profile, writing more effective job proposals, and developing workable strategies for building and maintaining a client base on the site. I also learned search strategies on the site, to find more jobs that fit my expertise. (I'll be writing about the course in a future blog).
  • I'm experimenting with my gigs on Fiverr, and seeking out more effective ways of improving my visibility on the site.
  • I attended a local Fiverr event, which has allowed me to interact with like-minded Fiverr uses so I can learn from those who better understand how to optimize the site to attract more work (it requires a different strategy than Upwork).   I'll be joining a local Los Angeles user's group (and one for Upwork, if I should find one).
Last week, I was interviewed as part of a university study exploring the rapidly expanding "gig economy." Though the idea (and these platforms) have been around for a while, it seems that near the leading edge of a profound shift in the character of employment.

My immediate goals are to learn better optimization on Fiverr, expand into blog and article writing on Upwork, and in general find better ways of promoting my services on both sites. 

I've come a long way, but I still have a long way to go toward making this a full-time operation...but I think I'm on my way. The progress I've made so far has exceeded my expectations. I'm optimistic about the possibilities for the future.

I've always believed that whatever might be your talent, there's an audience somewhere in the world for what you do—if only you could find it.

I'm finding it.

Check out my Upwork Profile here, and my Fiverr Profile and gigs here.  If you need writing or remote video editing services, check me out (if you tell me you came from my blog, make sure to let me know).

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

SoupChad is on the Menu: Book Marketing

"SoupChad" is my novel about a boy who loves soup—and will not tolerate kids who like salad.  I love the fact that the book is fun and offbeat, but through all the absurdity has something to say, too.

In the last couple of months, I've been test-marketing the book in several venues and websites. I was at the Santa Clarita Local Authors Celebration, and then at a fundraiser at Barnes and Noble bookstore for a local elementary school.

The Santa Clarita event was great fun, with my nephew (portraying SoupChad on the book cover) and his friend helped me promote the book, soup spoons in hand and wearing brand-new SoupChad t-shirts. The book did fairly well, but there weren't too many kids in attendance.

The Barnes and Noble event was a special success. I had the opportunity to talk to numerous kids about the book, give out "SoupClub" cards (favorite soup of the day: chicken noodle), and sold a healthy number of copies. It was a great day!

Here I am at Barnes and Noble, introducing
my book to elementary school kids. 
Reviews are slowly beginning to appear. Here's one from the winner of a drawing I had over at Goodreads that hit the nail right on the head: The book relates to our times in that you're either with us or against us. Teaching children to be tolerant of others opinions or likes or dislikes is achieved by either being a salad or soup person. I entered the draw in hopes of winning the book for my granddaughters. I believe they will learn a life lesson when they read this book.
My nephew Josh (right) and his friend Nick helped
me at the Santa Clarita Local Authors Celebration

Building on previous success, I've decided to more directly promote the tolerance aspect of the book, at least to parents and teachers.

Every kid who visits the SoupChad booth
gets an "official" Soup Club card, complete
with a club name based on their favorite soup.
My new listing on Etsy.com offers a "Class Pack," including multiple copies of the book, a book poster, and Soup Club cards. I'm hoping that my humorous and non-political approach one of the growing issues in our society today can interest both traditional and home schools. Take a look at the listing and tell me what you think - or better yet, pass it on to anyone who might be interested!

By the way, I'm looking for press of all types and reach - just forward this blog or contact me at rich@rlsventures.com