Category Archives: My Posts

My posts and updates.

Taking a blog break…

First, thank you for visiting my site! I definitely appreciate it. There have not been any news posts on here or my other two blogs for quite some time, but with good reason.

Coffee break

I started freelancing full-time back in April of this year and my plate has just been overflowing. I am working for two new wonderful websites, AppAdvice and MakeUseOf. My work with them keeps be busier than I ever dreamed and I absolutely love it. So, unfortunately it is my blogs that have to suffer with limited or no posts for just a little while longer.

If you would like to contact me, you can head over to my Contact Form or email me directly at info@sandystachowiak.com.

Thank you again for stopping by!

 

 

 

BusinessProTips.com Launched!

To my loyal followers, I have finally launched my new site: www.businessprotips.com! This site is dedicated to the online (remote) business professional with just a few tips thrown in for those conducting business in a physical office as well! Take a look, share what you will, and thank you in advance for visiting!

BusinessProTips.com

BusinessProTips.com

The Evolving Writer

This is my journey…

When I published my first article on Yahoo! Voices I was elated but clueless at the same time. I knew I wanted to write and was thrilled that someone actually wanted to publish my work, but had no idea where I was going from there with my writing…exactly.

That was just over two years ago…

Since then my changes as a writer has really made me think a lot about where I really want to go.

Writer by stockers9, http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1000052

Writer by stockers9, http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1000052

After being a part of the Yahoo Contributor Network (YCN), I decided to try my hand at other sites. I published on a couple of sites similar to YCN, got in with Bubblews, applied for two Examiner.com titles, and kept plugging away.

All the while I kept thinking that I have a lot more I can be writing and a lot more I can be contributing within my niche. Writing about technology and business topics seemed to really be “my thing”. So, I took a look at the ProBlogger job board and that is when I really got lucky. I applied for some blogger positions through there and had gained new clients. Via those new clients and my exposure, I was contacted by other interested people who were looking to hire me as well. This amazed me and still does!

After publishing articles about just any topic I had in my mind on YCN and Bubblews, I discovered through the process what I really liked to write about. Poetry, as much as I love it, is not it for me. I tried and did publish a few poems, but I really do not think my talent lies there. That was Realization Number One.

Realization Number Two was that I have an opinion and I will share that opinion if I am asked to do so with honesty. I wrote for a company that wanted my written opinions. At first everything went very well – I liked what I saw so it showed in what I wrote. However, one fine day when I discovered something that I did not like it caused a stir. I kept the article positive, but not positive enough apparently. It was then that I found out the company only wanted my written opinions to be good ones. So basically if something sucked, they wanted me to write that it was great anyway. Well, check your integrity at the door please, right? At least, that was my opinion.

Onto Realization Number Three, what they say is true – write about what you know. This is when I finally discovered that my best work is when I write what I know. Yes, yes, I have heard it many times, but I really thought that I could research and write anything if asked. Sure – I really can, but I am not as successful as I am when I write what I know; hence my Technology and Business niches. These are topics I know and now I concentrate on writing those, where I can write those, and for whom I can write those. This still includes reviews, but honest ones. It also includes how-to’s, guides, tips, informational works, and even technical documents.

Realization Number Four came as I worked to become a full-time Freelance Writer and “do it all”. For some reason I had a huge misconception that I could quit my day job and write full-time overnight. Psh – seriously? Honestly, I do believe it will happen someday, but certainly not overnight! It takes time – time to hone your skills, time to gain new clients, time to make the financial transition. It just takes time – period.

So, I will end with Realization Number Five – I have and will continue to evolve as a Freelance Writer and I accept that proudly and honestly. As we live our lives we evolve as people, we evolve in our careers, and in our personal lives. It is normal – what is abnormal is not changing. I look forward to the next years and what they will bring me as a Freelance Writer, as a Project Manager, as a mother, and as a person.

I look forward to more realizations, discoveries, and unknown talents or quirks about myself. For example, fiction is a ‘yes’, but will not be published on a website – I will save that for my book! Writing web content and blogging are both a ‘yes’ too, but within my purview. Honesty and integrity are absolutes and will continue to be as long as I write.

I am ready for more, I am ready to write, I am ready to evolve further as a writer…

Bring it on!

A Sad Farewell to Yahoo! Voices

It was announced this week that Yahoo! Voices will be shutting down at the end of July 2014.

This announcement affects hundreds of thousands of writers. The effects are different for those writers. For many it means a huge loss of income; for some it means the loss of a forum of expression. For me personally it means that the place which gave me my “start” as a Freelance Writer will be no more – this is quite sad for me.

My Start

Just over two years ago I saw an advertisement for writers for Yahoo Contributor Network (YCN). I was unsure, not confident in my writing, but wanted to give it a try. I talked to my daughter about it and she encouraged me to go for it. I told no one else in my life that I was doing it. I wanted to wait and see what happened. After I published my first article in May of 2012 on Yahoo! Voices I was overjoyed! This gave me the confidence to continue writing and tell people in my life what I was doing – with pride.

Sandy Stachowiak Contributor Profile

My Journey

As time went on and my confidence grew and writing skills continued to improve, I finally dubbed myself a Freelance Writer and the journey has continued. Over time I gained private clients and began writing for other sites. Today writing is very much an important part of my life. Aside from writing content for many sites, I also work on two different books that I am in no hurry to finish ;-).

With my added writing opportunities and some difficulties with YCN over the past several months, I had slowed down on submitting articles to Yahoo Contributor Network. There seemed to be constant technical issues and delays in getting articles published. Even though I had slowed my writing for YCN, I continued to keep up with activity and decided to publish at least once per month – until I received notice it was shutting down, that is.

So even though my writing for YCN slowed down near the end, I am still sad to see Yahoo! Voices go away. In my mind, that site was the reason I started writing content, gained confidence in my writing abilities, prompted my book ideas, helped others with my experiences, made connections, and it led me to believe in myself enough to pursue other writing opportunities with confidence.

How I Helped People

One article in particular that I published over two years ago has prompted such a huge response that I still receive feedback on it even now. It was an article about my neck surgery and recovery. I received over 72,000 views to date and have gotten numerous article comments, emails, Facebook messages, and even contact through different writing websites, AND this blog for the article. This has all been from people seeking help/advice or comparing my situation to theirs or a loved one’s. To me, this was my biggest success on Yahoo! Voices because the article, even after two years, was still prompting people to contact me about it. I am very, very glad that one experience I was able to share on Yahoo! Voices was helpful to so many others.YCN Find Your Audience

People and Connections

Another reason I am thankful for Yahoo Contributor Network is the connections and friends I have gained. I have met, connected with, and become friends with some wonderful people because of YCN. I have met some very talented and skilled writers, some who have become wonderful friends, and even some who have encouraged other writing opportunities. I always find it interesting how random events can bring you to know people that you would not have known otherwise. Thank you, YCN for all of the people I have met because of you!

A Final Thank You

I have to give a final ‘thank you’ to the Yahoo Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices for providing me with a big change in my life that I would not trade for anything. I will miss you YCN and will be forever grateful for what you have brought me. :-)

 

3 Ways to Help Your Blog or Site Be Mobile-Ready

These days more people are reading articles, news, magazines, and blogs on their mobile devices. Please remember that no matter where your readers are enjoying your work, you want to make it as easy as possible for them. Otherwise, you could be sending them to another Web site. So, when you are writing your blogs or other pieces do you keep mobile in mind? If not, here are a few things to remember.

sxc.hu, stock.xchng, Kolobsek, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1398490

Mobile device by: sxc.hu, stock.xchng, Kolobsek, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1398490

(This article will not discuss the actual Web page development or technical side of page rendering.)

  1. Limit Multiple Pages: If you have a lengthy article and the site on which you are publishing uses the page number or “next” links, try to shorten your article or break it into separate pieces. When viewing numbered or “next” links on a smart phone or tablet they can appear very small. Although readers can increase their screen size, you really do not want to inconvenience them. Making your articles as accessible as possible to your readers increases your chances of them not only staying on your page, but also subscribing or following your future works.
  2. Check Your URLs: Linking outside of your article for pertinent information is common and a helpful way to establish credibility. However, when you are adding URLs for other sites are you double-checking those URLs on a mobile device? Are the pages or sites that you are sending your readers to mobile-ready as well? If not, you might want to reconsider your sources.
  3. Page Load Times: Page load times are not only important when publishing on the Web, but even more so on mobile. “On a mobile phone, a Web page takes a leisurely nine seconds to load, according to Google…”, as stated in a New York Times article. In comparison the article also states, “Download times on personal computers average about six seconds worldwide, and about 3.5 seconds on average in the United States.” With mobile page load times already almost three times the U.S. average, it is important to limit images, scripts, Flash, and other items that can cause page load times to lag.

Finally, as you check your articles, Web pages and Web sites on different browsers; take the time to check them on a smart phone and tablet as well. It could mean the difference between keeping a reader and losing one.

* This article was originally posted on Full of Knowledge, March 2013.

5 Reasons Writers Should Keep a Journal

I used to write in my journal a lot. I loved writing so it was very natural for me and therapeutic as well. Then when I became a freelance writer things changed. I was spending so much time writing articles, posts, Web content, and even working on my short stories, that I stopped writing in my journal. Well, I recently realized that journal writing is a great exercise and very beneficial to writers. Here a just a few reasons that you as a writer, should keep a journal:

  1. It keeps you in touch with your emotions. Great writers can tap into emotion – the emotions of their readers as well as their own emotions. Keeping a journal allows a writer to do just that. Being able to communicate feelings and thoughts into a place that is outside of the writing space is a terrific exercise into oneself and can transfer to a writer’s work.

    sxc.hu, stock.xchng, typofi, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1176000


    sxc.hu, stock.xchng, typofi, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1176000

  2. It is a great transition tool. If you are a writer with a day job like me, then you know that once you come home from a day in the office it can be difficult to jump directly into your writing. Whether it is fiction, Web content, blog posts, or an assignment for a client, it is not always easy to switch gears that quickly. Journal writing, however, can be a great transition tool for writers. You can write your thoughts from the day, your hopes for the evening, your creative thoughts for further down the road, or simply use it as a stress release. This is my favorite journaling reason.
  3. It can spark ideas, memoirs, essays, or more. As writers we know that not every thought that we “put on paper” will make it past the first draft. We also know that writer’s block can be a real pain. Sometimes just relaxing and jotting down our thoughts can spark so much more to happen. You may look back on a journal entry and find a great article idea. You may discover thoughts for a story from something that happened in your past. You may decide that your life is interesting enough to write an entire book. The possibilities really are endless with what could come of a few simple journal entries.
  4. It keeps you writing every day – no matter what. We as writers know the rule – write every day. Honestly, this can be difficult sometimes. You can have things going on in your life that simply make writing each day hard. Writing in your journal satisfies that rule – because why? Because you are still writing! As mentioned in #3 above, you never know what will come from a simple journal entry. If you are too sick to write that Web piece or too stressed to finish that chapter, jot a note in your journal. It is sure to keep you writing more than a quick sentence and you will continue to feed that writing rule.
  5. It really is therapeutic. We have all heard that writing can help us cope, heal, and deal with life’s little surprises. It really is true – at least I believe it. Depressed, upset, stressed, angry, sad, or something else? Write about it. It does not have to turn out to be in one of your stories. It does not have to turn into a poem or published work. It does not have to be anything at all except a release for you. Use it.

There are many avenues for journaling from the good, old pen and paper to the newest iPad app to a great mobile phone tool. So, if you are not journaling – give it a try and if you quit like me – get back to it. Share your thoughts on if it works for you or how you best use writing in a journal as a writer!

* This article was originally posted on Full of Knowledge, November 2013.

Technology and Writing #1: How Technology Has Changed the Writer’s Life

Technology has changed so many industries and lives over the years. It has created careers, provided an easier way of living, and ultimately changed the ways that we live our lives. For a writer, technology has definitely changed the way that we write; everything from how we write to where we write to what we write. It amazes me when I think about where and how writers began to where we all have come.

This is the first article in a series about Technology and Writing that I plan to write.

Photo by: dmpop, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1234386

Photo by: dmpop, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1234386

The Internet alone has provided writers with an avenue for writing that never could have been predicted. We now have a place to display our work whether on a website or an eBook that was all very unexpected. Web content writers are plentiful and information is easily accessible by people all over the world. What better audience could a writer hope for than a place to display their work for people worldwide to read and appreciate! EBooks brought on a whole new way for people to read but more importantly for an author to write without the so many things that go along with printed piece process.

Tools alone are a huge subject. Just starting with computers and moving onto software such as Microsoft Word gave writers better ways of writing. Once you think about the book writing tools and software such as Scrivener it becomes even better. The thought of writing with a pen and paper alone or a typewriter makes me realize how easy we all have it these days. The amount of time saved on productivity is awesome! No erasing, retyping, white-out…wow!

Then we can think about how the changing technology world has given writers of Web content, books, journalists, and more a whole slew of new things to write about!

I wonder sometimes about what some of the writers from 100’s of years ago would think now. Would they be thrilled at the prospects of a writer’s life being easier? Would they be set in their ways and only use the tools they did originally? What about newer writers? How would they deal with the “ancient” tools that writers of some of the best classics used? Would they be able to adapt? It is all a very curious thing to me, which is why I chose to write this series. I hope that you will come back to read the follow-up articles on this topic and comment if you can.

Do you already have thoughts on this topic that you would like to share? Please feel free to comment if you do and come back soon for the Technology and Writing #2 in this series.

 

It’s Time to Make Time for Google+

I, probably like many people, was not wowed by the introduction of Google+. As a matter of fact, I think I remember reading and hearing that it was going to bomb. Well, whoever thought that was right; however, in a different context. It did not bomb in the sense of an unsuccessful crash and burn. It bombed in the sense of exploding to become the second most popular social media networking site; now with 359 million active users.

My Google+ Page

My Google+ Page

I have been reading more and more about the rising popularity of Google+ from various sources. This week Forbes.com stated that Google+ will become a huge factor in 2014. The article goes on to state, “…Google+ should no longer be thought of as ‘just’ another social network. It’s increasingly proving itself to be an integral part of Google’s grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals and providing a more personalized search experience.”

According to Jeff Bullas blog, Google+ has the largest amount of monthly visits. “Google+ has very large numbers of visits per month at 1,203 million. This has a lot to do with activity generated by visits to Google services (read Gmail) that is counted as a Google+ visit. Facebook visits are 809 million and Twitter had 416 million.”

So, I have no choice now but to become more active on Google+. It is not a chore, but rather refreshing to me. I enjoy browsing through my Home to see what people in my Circles are posting. Sharing, +1-ing, commenting are all extremely simple. I also really like the new format that was introduced a few months ago and have become very much used to it. I think we all know that using Google+ is easy to use.

Regarding a few other features; I have not used the Hangout feature yet, but I do belong to a few Communities that are pretty active. Creating a business page is also a breeze and switching between a business and personal page is simple. Yes again, I think we all know this is an easy social platform.

Comparing my own marketing efforts on Google+ as compared to Facebook; I believe that it works better for me. I do receive responses to my blogs and articles on other sites, and those numbers are growing. In comparison to Facebook, I have three times as many people in my network on Google+ than my Facebook fan page.

My Daughter's Mom on Google+

My Daughter’s Mom on Google+

With the addition of keywords/hashtags, Google+ is staying consistent with Twitter and Facebook which is a bonus. Another thing that Google+ offers that other top social networking sites do not is post formatting. This is something I was unaware of until I read an article on Reviewz N Tips about a few mistakes people make when posting to Google+.

So, maybe Google+ was slow out of the gate. Maybe people resisted it for various reasons. I know that I did resist in making it higher on my list of social sites, but not any longer. It is time for me to embrace Google+ and give it some attention for content marketing and personal use.

What about you? What are your thoughts on Google+? Have you changed any opinions you have had on it? Are you using it, and if so, using it more now? Share your thoughts!

Your Own Writer’s Space Makes a Difference

Since we have lived in our current home which has been five years now, my boyfriend and I have shared our home office. I really did not do any writing in that room; I took my laptop to the patio or family room instead. It was and still is cluttered with equipment and furniture for us both to use. I simply began feeling uncomfortable in that office. It did not feel like a cozy spot.

I bought a new computer this spring and instead of setting it up in the office, I put it in the living room. My daughter had a desk there that she used for her computer. She started keeping her laptop in her room, so I took over that desk. It felt nice to be out where the action was and where I could easily keep an eye on dinner or the dog or whatever. I did write at that desk, but still mostly took my laptop elsewhere.

Image by sxc.hu, stock.xchng, andrewb, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/507097

Image by sxc.hu, stock.xchng, andrewb, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/507097

One day I had a thought that it might be nice to have my own writer’s space. So, we moved a few things around in our little guest room for me to give that a try. Since the room only had guests occupying it maybe once per year, it seemed as the though the space was being wasted and could work for me.

Well, after sitting in that new room for a just a few days, I knew it would work. So, my daughter and mom shopped with me to find some things for the room – to make it my own. We bought lamps, wall decorations and curtains. Once everything was in the room and the furniture was moved just right – it was perfect!

I honestly did not realize what having my own space to write it could do for my thoughts and creativity before. But, it is clear now! Having your own space to write in can make a big difference. I have my own inspirational decorations. I have a door to close if I do not want to be disturbed. I even have dual monitors to work with now, which improves my productivity.

If you are serious about writing, whether it is your sole career or you want it to be, having your own space is a crucial piece. It is no different than having a decent computer to work on or comfortable chair to sit in. When it is time for you to write; the space you do it in can make all the difference in the world. I know that it has for me and the room has been dubbed my “writer’s cave”.

Here are a few tips that I wrote about for setting up that home office.

Writing Ideas: Where Mine Come From

It was not that long ago that I had trouble coming up with writing ideas. I would read articles about it and ask fellow writers for advice. I just could not understand how some people came up with so many ideas of things to write about! The funny thing is, is that before I officially became a Freelance Writer, I could think of a lot of things to write about, but that changed and I had trouble. Although I do enjoy creative writing – stories and poetry – I could not think of article ideas.

Now of course, if I accepted the position to write about TV recaps then it was obvious. But, for those sites where I chose what I wrote I needed ideas. Even though I read the articles about this and accepted the advice I received, it still did not seem to help me.

Image by: sxc.hu, stock.xchng, raja4u, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1156284

Image by: sxc.hu, stock.xchng, raja4u, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1156284

Well, over time and through taking on more writing sites and assignments, everything became much clearer. Suddenly ideas were flowing in, and they still are so I am thankful for that. Here are the top ways that I get my writing ideas:

  1. A new take or twist on my previous articles. Good example; I wrote an article about a surgery on my neck last year. Since then it has spawned articles about physical therapy after surgery, products to help computer workers with arm or neck pain, and even an article about complications I am having that involve further care. Going back to previous articles to see if a spin-off makes sense is a great idea.
  2. Read other people’s articles to see if you can create a new take or twist. This is a sure-fire way to stimulate some ideas! If you read an article about an event, write one about the after effects on a certain group of people. If you read one about celebrity news, write about how that celebrity got where they are now. The list is really endless and when an article sparks your interest, think about what it is you would like to know more about with it that is not there.
  3. Write about what is around you. I actually wrote an article about ‘writing about what is around you’! Your environment, your relationships, your family, your job, your city, your neighborhood…again the list goes on and on. Write about an event in your life, like I did with my surgery. Maybe there is a graduation or wedding in your life. Maybe you are remodeling your home. Even something small is bound to arouse interest in someone else in the same situation that could benefit from your words or advice.

The biggest piece of advice I can give on this to think outside the box [hate to be cliché]. When you read something try to think about what is not there – what you wish you knew about it. Try to look at things from a different angle or take things further than what you see.

For me, it just took time to be able to think like a writer. There is always something to write about; no matter how big or how small. You just have to peel apart other things to find it.