6 Irrational Fears that Are Crippling Your Freelance Writing Career

It was almost 4 AM, and I was still glued to my computer, reading my resignation letter for the 4,867 time. My freelance writing business was taking off, and I was making enough money to quit my job and support myself. Granted, I wasn’t rolling in cash like Scrooge McDuck, but I was making enough to support my travel extravaganzas. Yet, I was questioning my decision.

So, I get you. Deciding to quit your job to pursue a career in freelance writing services, feels a lot like jumping off a cliff and trying to craft a parachute on the way down. It’s equal part exciting and terrifying. What if you get rejected? What if it’s hard to find new clients? What if you don’t know the topic well, and you make a flagrant mistake? What if your ideas aren’t good enough? What if you don’t have enough experience?

These fears are something that every freelance writer encounters during their career. It happens to the best of writers, and the worst of writers.

The difference is the best ones know how to overcome their fears and build a lucrative business. It’s all about having the right mindset.

With that in mind, here are six irrational fears that are holding you back.

  1. You Don’t Feel Ready

I’ve seen many great content writers stuck at the starting line, obsessing over every single detail, and waiting for the right time. Here’s the hard truth: if you wait for everything to be perfect, you will never start.

Everything you need is in place right now. In this day and age, when you have access to a seemingly endless stream of resources, building a freelance writing career is easier than it was years ago.

  1. You Are Afraid of Hard Work

Succeeding as a content writer requires a lot of hard work, especially in the early stages when you are striving to build a steady base of clients and figuring out what niche works for you. Be prepared to work 12 hours a day, during the weekend or holiday and pretty much anytime you find a spare second.

I know it sounds tiring and stressing, but despite the enormous amount of work, there’s something incredibly validating about the freedom and control a freelance writing career has to offer.

  1. The Competition Is Stiff

Many writers start their freelance career thinking that it will be easy to find new project constantly. But, they realize quickly that the competition is fierce and need to bring something new to the table to stand out.

Comparing yourself to more experienced freelance writers can be intimidating. Some content writers have spent years building their portfolios and reputation. Savvy writers understand that they have a lot to offer to businesses – fresh perspective, desire to learn and work hard, etc. So, don’t get scared by the competition and keep in mind that your skills will get better with time. Focus on growing your client base and learning as much as you possibly can.

  1. Change Scares You

Most people are afraid of change, which often leads them to make decisions that guarantee everything will remain the same. Even when they are dissatisfied with certain aspects of their lives, they still rarely take action.

You need to accept the fact that change and progress go hand in hand. You cannot grow as a writer or business person if you are not ready to get out of your comfort zone. Remember that your core values won’t change, even when your routine and lifestyle are altered.

  1. You’re Afraid You Will Fail

One of the biggest concerns that are holding you back is fear of falling short, especially when you are just getting started. What if you can’t get enough clients? What if you don’t have enough discipline?

Successful freelance writers are calculated risk takers. They never jump right in and don’t leave too much to chance. They understand that, to evolve and achieve success, you need to get out of the comfort zone. But, they do it through strategic planning, analyzing risks and anticipating mistakes.

  1. Fear of Conflict

Most people have a romanticized representation of writers. They imagine them sipping tea in a brightly lit apartment while typing on their computers.

That’s a nice image, but the reality is different.

Content writing is both art and business. Sure, you need to be creative enough to offer a different approach to a boring topic or to structure your texts in an engaging way. But, you also need to negotiate prices and deadlines, pitch ideas to prospective clients, answer complaints, and so on. So, if you want to make a living as a freelance writer, you need to overcome your fear of conflict.

Final Thoughts

That morning, I resigned from my day job and focused on my freelance writing. Two years have passed, and I’m still enjoying being my own boss and working on my terms. I’m still not rolling in money like Uncle Scrooge, but I’m getting closer every day.

Differences Between Library Catalogs and Amazon.com

Introduction: Users may begin their search for information on a topic with a known item, but be interested in expanding their search to locate related material.  In a physical collection, they can do this by locating an item on the shelf and then browsing the titles in proximity to that item to look for other material of potential interest.  In catalogs, retrieval systems, and search engines, other approaches are needed to help the user locate related material once the record describing the initially sought item has been found.  In this assignment you will explore how efficient and effective various search tools are in leading you to material related to the item that is the starting point for your search.  In this case you will be looking for two books: a (non-fiction) book by Lawrence Lessig entitled Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy and a (fiction) book by Richard Powers, Generosity: An Enhancement.

Search and Discovery: Different Methods for Finding Related Items

Three search tools, the UIUC Classic Catalog, Amazon.com and the VuFind Catalog, have disparate visual interfaces and very different mechanisms for locating related material, all with varying degrees of precision and recall. Using a non-fiction work by Lawrence Lessig and a fiction title by Richard Powers as starting points, no absolute conclusions can be made about their effectiveness, although the library catalogs tended to show better precision while Amazon.com had better recall, albeit with some cluttered results.

The Classic Catalog interface is the simplest of the three. It displays descriptive metadata including author, title, publishing information and location, and is almost exclusively plain text on a white background, with the exception of a small cover image.

The Amazon.com interface, on the other hand, immediately makes it clear that it is an exploratory search system with plenty of user interaction. Since it is commercial, price information is displayed most prominently, but there is also much more than just basic book details, including user-created lists and reviews.

Lastly, the VuFind Catalog interface attempts to combine the authority of a library catalog with the attractiveness and interactivity of Amazon.com. It includes most of the same metadata at Classic but also Web 2.0 features such as favorites, tagging and comments. None of these features appear to be frequently used, however.

The mechanisms for locating similar items in the three systems were fundamentally different. The Classic Catalog allowed the user to search by LCSH, browse the call number range and retrieve other works by the same author. The VuFind Catalog was similar but did not provide call number searching. It also featured a more precise LCSH search mechanism than Classic in which the user could browse by either a broad or specific heading to control the number of items retrieved. The interface also supports finding related items by user-supplied tags, but as previously stated, this functionality is very rarely used.

Amazon.com offered a completely different set of search mechanisms, many of which were based on community-negotiated information instead of expert-supplied controlled vocabulary. There is a system to search for similar books by user-tagged keywords; this even included a method to control relevance by allowing users to vote for or against a particular tag. There were also two mechanisms that suggested related items by displaying the titles most frequently purchased with the original. Another very exciting feature called “Inside this Book” most closely resembles full-text information retrieval. It allows the user to browse for similar titles based on whether they have certain keywords in the author’s name, title or in the body text of a growing collection of books (currently over 120,000 titles). Finally, there is a “Search by Category” function.

For non-fiction, such as the Lessig book, the controlled vocabulary in the search mechanisms of the Classic and VuFind catalogs result in a higher precision than Amazon.com. Library of Congress Subject Headings are painstakingly applied by professionals and the Dewey Classification system is well organized by classes and detailed subcategories, so only very relevant titles are returned. Actual user information seeking needs, however, do not always correspond to these subject headings or call number ranges. A related item that might be perfect for a user will not show up unless it has been catalogued with these precise headings or numbers. Therefore, while precision may be high, recall is not necessarily so.

Fiction, however, is nearly impossible to classify with any level of detail using the same controlled vocabulary, which results in poorer precision and recall. For the Powers book, for example, the corresponding LCSH keyword “Genetics – Research – Fiction” returns a low number of only 6 results. There is no guarantee of their precision, however, since with fiction it is often elements such as narrative style, form and tone of voice that make an item similar and relevant for users, not extremely broad subject matter. The other LCSH given was “College Teachers – Fiction” which returns 98 results that do not appear to be similar or of much cohesive relevance. In contrast, Amazon’s user tagging mechanism with its system of tag peer-evaluation could potentially improve precision for fiction titles, but it still has not caught on enough to be effective. The Powers book, for example, has yet to be tagged.

On the other hand, Amazon.com’s related item mechanisms generally brought lower precision and higher recall. The “Frequently Bought Together” and “Items Customers Also Bought” are based solely on purchasing patterns and not anything to do with the content of the book. While this type of algorithm is improving, at this stage they can be manipulated by too many factors to be considered reliable and as a result their precision is low. Since they lack professionally applied controlled vocabulary such as LCSH, the precision of Amazon’s mechanisms in non-fiction searches is lower than the library catalog. “Inside the Book” could also do wonders for precision and recall for more specific searches, but it will need to continue to increase the size of its index. Most of Amazon.com’s mechanisms return many more items than narrow LCSH searches, suggesting higher recall, but the user would likely be discouraged by the amount of non-relevant sources he or she would have to sift through in the recommended books and extremely broad category searches. In addition, he or she would have to look all over the page to find the different mechanisms and the category search, for example, is buried near the bottom and barely noticeable.

In conclusion, the library catalogs showed fairly good precision, but suffered with finding related items for fiction. Amazon.com’s mechanisms had better recall but tended to clutter the screen. Some of its mechanisms have the potential to significantly improve both precision and recall for both fiction and non-fiction, but they will need the support of a large community in order to do so.

Harper Collins’ 26 Checkout Policy Challenges Traditional Role of the Library

Harper Collins recently released a new library ebook policy in which the licenses to its content expire after 26 uses, forcing libraries to purchase them again. This represents a very dangerous trend affecting the very role of the library, and underscores a need for library and information science professionals to take a stand against competing information organizations that seize power and control.

To place this development into an LIS context, Pawley gives of examples in the digital era of commodification of information negatively impacting libraries, calling their relationship with commercial publishers an “unequal partnership” (8809). Vaidhyanathan explains the need for a new field, Critical Information Studies, which urges an increased study of “the relationship among information control (and) property rights” and “the cultural, social and economic ramifications” of flows of information (302). Abbott, on the other hand, makes a more gripping comparison by presenting the situation in terms of an ecological battle for survival, arguing that libraries are in direct competition with other professions and must continue to adapt to a shifting information environment so as not to fall victim to its predators. This idea can be directly applied to the Harper Collins ebook case, as it transforms libraries from an institution that owns the content it provides to one that is merely leasing it from another company that retains all the power.

This type of change has already occurred with proprietary article databases, as libraries typically pay for access instead of purchasing full rights to individually selected titles. With ebooks, the implications of this loss of ownership are even more significant. Most library policies, as well as the fundamental ALA Bill of Rights, are written under the assumption that libraries will have continuing access to and control over the items that they provide. But as we have seen with ebooks-for-lease models, this is not the case, both in terms of the duration of ownership and even whether the items will continue to be available at all. Owners reserve the right to remove them at any time, as was the case in 2009 when all copies of two George Orwell books were removed from all Kindles without the knowledge of those who had “purchased” the item (Stone). How can libraries stay true to their foundational value of ensuring continued access to knowledge for all patrons when they cannot ensure that the items provided today will still be available tomorrow? Asheim argues that librarians have an ethical duty to fight censorship and fight against the removal of materials, but the ebook case complicates the argument by raising this new form of digital censorship in which materials can be removed by other parties who represent different values, all because libraries do not control the delivery platform.

The 26 checkout issue also raises other important concerns. For example, how could a library enter such an item into its OPAC and provide real-time item status as each ebook nears its expiration. It is true that print books do not stay in readable condition forever, but libraries have always had the power to utilize its resources for preservation and conservation in order to get the most value out of its investments. There is no such comparison in the digital world, and the fact that the arbitrary number of 26 was thought up by pricing consultants without any dialogue with libraries or reading communities is a disturbing fact, and a trend which will likely continue.

Returning to Abbot’s desires for libraries to adapt in order to challenge its “predators,” the library community is banding together to fight Harper Collins. A petition launched by a New Jersey librarian opposing the policy had collected over 58,000 signatures as of May 5, 2011 (Library Journal). Such movements from the library community will be crucial in the coming years as other companies try to protect their financial interests at the expense of the public. Interestingly, Abbott himself predicted just this over a decade ago:

The central challenges (for libraries) lie in embracing the various information technologies of the future and the groups that service them.  This embrace will end up redefining the profession. But that is necessary to survival.

References

Abbott, Andrew. “Professionalism and the Future of Librarianship.” Library Trends 46.3 (1998): 430-443.

Asheim, Lester. “Selection and Censorship: A Reappraisal” Wilson Library Bulletin 58.3 (1983): 180-84.

Kelley, Michael. “Petition Protesting HarperCollins’s Ebook Circulation Policy Takes Off.” Library Journal. 5 May 2011. http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/home/890502-264/petition_protesting_harpercollinss_ebook_circulation.html.csp

Pawley, Christine. “Libraries.” In International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier, 2001.

Stone, Brad. “Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle.” New York Times. 17 July 2009. 12 May 2011.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. “Afterword: Critical Information Studies.” Cultural Studies 20.2 (2006): 292-315.

Librarian Degree Breakdown: What College Programs Lead to the Job?

The degree needed for becoming a librarian is a Master’s in library and information science. Other institutions might call it library science, information science, or it might just be a school of information.

This is a relatively short program as far as graduate school goes, as the degree usually takes 2 years to complete. Working professionals often take longer as they take a few classes at a time, while highly motivated students are able to complete the degree in just 1 year. There are also many online programs that allow maximum flexibility depending on your personal situation.

There is another important point to add, however. The library and information science master’s degree is required for positions that are officially “librarian.” But these are far from the only jobs in the library. There are library paraprofessionals, often called assistants or support staff, whose jobs do not require any graduate work. Most often these jobs do require either a bachelor’s or possibly just a high school diploma.

The general public often forgets that not everyone seen behind a library desk is a librarian (sort of like how not everyone in a hospital is a doctor!), so those who simply want to work in the library environment at some level can certainly do so with very little to no specialized education. Instead, those library assistant jobs will usually require some specialized training and sometimes the completion of an exam. They do, however, pay less than librarian jobs and are sometimes part-time or without benefits.

If you decide that you are going the master’s degree route to become a professional librarian, you’ll need get a bachelor’s degree first. The good news is that library programs do not require any specific major; you can choose anything you’d like. The most common areas for applicants, however, are in the humanities, such as English, and STEM degrees are usually less common. If you are interested in becoming an academic librarian at a college or university, many of those librarians use their undergraduate major as part of their job. This can include specialized instruction for classes in that major, collection development work, and other types of outreach and collaboration with faculty in that subject area.

The coursework in a master’s program for librarians is very diverse. It can range from database design and programming to information law and policy to children’s storytelling. It all depends on what you want to ultimately do with the degree, whether that be working in a public library, an academic library, a special library, or one of many other possibilities. You will likely also notice that certain programs have different focuses. Schools of information or information science will usually have more coursework in advanced technologies, while others have a stronger emphasis on the “traditional” library.

Picking up some actual work experience is also very important for ultimately securing a librarian job, so you should try to do that as early as you can, whether it be a nice paid position or just an internship or volunteer work. It all helps, and will also help you make sure that your career aspirations are in line with what you actually like to do.