5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Use the iPhone 5

The world can finally exhale. At 1:13 EST today, months of speculation culminated in Tim Cook’s unveiling of the iPhone 5, the sixth incarnation of the world’s most popular smart phone, at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Arts Center.

While some freelance writers are still working out the transition from desktop to laptop, many are trying to figure out how to downsize even further, from laptop to handheld device. And that’s where the iPhone 5 can make your life a whole lot easier, especially if you’re already using Mac products.

Here are five ways freelance writers can use the iPhone 5.

1. Record interviews. As far back as the iPhone 3G, you could record high quality audio clips using the phone’s built-in tools. Now the iPhone 5’s ultrafast wireless and three microphones will also help you conduct interviews live or via Skype and FaceTime.

2. Shoot video and produce multimedia content. The iPhone 5 comes with 720p HD recording and face detection in FaceTime, making it great for shooting talking heads. You can even take pictures while shooting video. Wow. What a great way to capture events, press conferences and impromptu newsables, and produce solid content that you can upsell to editors who use multimedia on their websites or companies working doing brand journalism and thought leadership. Apple has updated Garage Band and iMovie so editing is sure to be a snap.

3. Take pictures to illustrate your stories. Don’t want to lug a heavy DSLR around while reporting in the field? Don’t—use the iPhone 5. With eight megapixels, panorama mode, 44 percent more color saturation than the iPhone 4S, and 640 x 1136 resolution, a nice aspect ratio to prevent weird stretching, now you can easily deliver stunning, web ready images along with your stellar prose.

4. To figure out what you’re doing and where you’re going. Enhanced mapping features make it easier than ever to map your route on the go. There’s a new, improved Siri to keep you on task and iPhone 5’s four-inch screen makes it easier to use apps like Andrew Nicolle’s recently released Story Tracker for Mac, which allows users to track queries, submissions and other project info via laptop or mobile device. Any apps that aren’t being updated for iPhone 5 or iOS 6 as I type will run letter boxed.

5. For absolutely everything else in your life. With the iPhone 5, Apple’s put out another lovely updated design—one that’s which 7.6 mm thick, 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than the previous generation and reportedly fits better in the hand. The bigger screen with 326 pixel per inch (ppi) retina display to enhanced mapping means you won’t want to stop looking at it.

Screenshot from Wired.com Gadget Lab’s live feed. 

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The Amazing Content Strategy Generator You Didn’t Know You Needed

To know me is to know that I’m rarely short of ideas…  Implementation is another thing entirely, especially when it comes to blog posts.

That’s because it’s not just about writing anymore. It’s about Tweet-able tie-ins, Pinnable pics and Klout relevance. It’s not what you write, it’s how you market it and who sees it.

How to use the Content Strategy Generator:

Copy this Google doc and type in a keyword. No, really, that’s it.

That’s where this crazy-cool Content Strategy Generator Tool (CSGT), created by Daniel Butler of SEOgadget, comes in. Enter a keyword and find out exactly what topics are making headlines and trending, being “liked” and shared… and much, much more.

There’s so much application here: digital journalists and freelance writers can use the generator to see how much coverage stories have already gotten—a great way to discover new angles before you pitch an editor. Bloggers can see who might be interested in reading (and re-tweeting) their latest posts. And of course, if you find yourself with a paucity of ideas related to your primary topic, this is a great place to start.

Photo by adihrespati
ᔥ Content Strategy Generator Tool, Daniel Butler ↬ ProBlogger

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A Light and stormy night

If the preponderance of stories opening with the line “it was a dark and stormy night” is any indication, this particular cocktail—traditionally made with ginger syrup and rum—should be a writer’s favorite.

But it’s not much of a springtime drink. So my friend Michelle, who writes Table Without Borders, brewed up a stiff adult bevvie we’re calling the Light and Stormy. Use what’s on hand and get creative with these decidedly inexact measurements:

3 oz. muscato or champagne

1 oz. rum

1/2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thin

Juice of half an orange

Dash of ginger ale, to taste

Ice cubes

Photo by Ruth Terry

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Put your pics to work: 4 Ways to spice up your site with photos

An unusual view of Sydney’s Opera House.

Since going premium, I’ve been exploring LinkedIn’s groups more—especially ones where I can get an inside view on the industries I write for and about.

I’m not exactly in every group’s industry. But marketing myself and writing about the green, travel and business sectors have given me unique insights to contribute, like ways to use images to jazz up, say, a travel company website—a question asked in one of my groups today. My comment got so unwieldy long (and I’m trying not to be one of those walls-of-text commenters) that I decided to blog it instead:

Here are four tips for travel professionals and other marketeers looking to spice up their websites with images.

1. Size—and alignment—matters
On the web, vertical photos, left- or right-aligned “above the fold” (the point where people have to scroll down to keep reading), are more effective than huge horizontal shots for websites and blogs, with the text below the fold. Every click and scroll matters and you want people to get to your text as soon as possible. This lends itself well to portraits, just make sure that your text wraps around the image. This slightly techy tutorial breaks down 90 percent of what you need to know about styling photos—from captions to code.

2. Take a cue from Beyoncé
In a recent Trip Advisor survey, 60 percent of travelers reported using travel apps. So travel companies, restaurants and hotels should definitely optimize their images for mobile device usage. This may require resetting your content management system preferences (WordPress, for instance, has a setting for this) and selecting an image that is large, uncluttered, hi-def and uses central composition. Fortunately we can look to Beyoncé for inspiration. Here’s an NPR story that talks about how the singer’s videos bring more thrills to mobile devices by centralized, uncluttered composition, close-ups and a minimal background. If it works for Beyoncé, it’ll work for you.

3. Use pictures worth 1,000 clicks
No one will thank you for boring images—even if they can see them on their phones. Here’s some inspiration for using color, texture and culture in photos. (I might pass on that Photoshop idea, but the others are solid.) Another idea: cut the text and tell your story through slideshow galleries with captioned images like the New York Times does.

4. Get with the Pingram
If you aren’t already on Pinterest, you should be—especially if you are in any way targeting women age 25-40. Brussels Airlines (full disclosure: I have a story in the May/June edition of their inflight magazine B-Spirit) has AWESOME pinboards chock-a-block full of travel tips, style and great photos of their “birds.” KLM also has boards dedicated to fan photos, vintage black and white images, a travel quiz and—my personal fave—package design. My Pinterest career started with a single pin—a garden planter or something equally lame. Within an hour, 40 people had repinned it. Now think of the exposure Pinterest could give your spectacular destination images. Or, because every pin tracks back to the site it was discovered on, your website. (You’ll want to make sure your images are pinnable.) Don’t have magical, expansive mountain views? Infographics are extremely popular on Pinterest.

You can find me on Pinterest here.

Photo by dicktay2000

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Introducing the Story by Numbers Podcast….

Fellow Blogathon participant Maria Gajewski and I have joined up to make a little podcast we’re calling Story by Numbers:15-minute riffs on what it means to tell a good story, featuring world savers, bean counters, slow journalists, data geeks and wordsmiths. But the first few are just us. Check out the intro episode here on iTunes.

Photo: Maria’s cat, by Ruth Terry

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Dan Rather, outspoken on NPR’s Diane Rehm show

They say to be a great writer, read great writing. Well, if you’re a journalist, there’s also a lot of value in listening to great interviews.

Diane Rehm’s interview with Dan Rather is truly one of the best. You can listen to full interview here. In the meantime, here my three takeaways:

Keep it peer-to-peer. Rehm and Rather are both veteran reporters. While you may not be interviewing your career counterpart, you can always fake it. If you’re starstruck or overly professional it’ll be harder to get a good banter going or ask tough questions, two hallmarks of great interviews.

Ethics are non-negotiable. In this interview, Rather’s unwavering commitment to ethics and the responsibility of professional journalists comes through loud and clear. He  reminds us that just because news is sometimes edu-tainment—he speaks eloquently on the transition from news by journalists to news by entertainers—doesn’t lessen our ethical obligations. In fact, it increases them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with edu-tainment, brand reporting or advertorials. Just don’t confuse them with hard news or let your audience confuse them either.

Have no regrets. Everybody $@&#s up from time to time, even Dan Rather. Learn from your mistakes, move forward and commit to doing things better the next go-round.

Featured image by: rutlo
Photo by: 
CanaryMason

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And the winner is… Noisette Academy

The Academy blog buttonLast week I randomly discovered Noisette Academy’s lovely site while trying to find cute social media buttons for my sidebar. Though founder @Isa Maria had me at Pantone, I was delighted (and impressed) to see all @NoisetteAcademy does to help creative business owners—mentoring, classes and quite a few free downloads.

I’m jumping on the March is Grow Your Business Month bandwagon. I may personalize that into March is Market Your Business Month—using Noisette’s adorable and downloadable Creative Business Growth Planner, of course.

Not to detract from the Academy’s e-courses and mentoring, but I think every freelance writer, creator and curator can learn a lot about online marketing just by visiting this site. My big takeaway was…

Great design can act as a multiplier for all your other marketing techniques. 

Take Noisette’s social media buttons. They aren’t just functional; they’re designed. The Pantone tie-in is industry-relevant and will appeal to design geeks. On their website, Noisette’s use of color and their whimsical aesthetic makes them seem fun, friendly, approachable and trust-worthy—all the qualities I would want in a mentor or marketing consultant. I also love all the free virtual swag like the Noisette badge above. What a great way to make it easy for people to add color to their websites… while linking back to your blog.

Image by Noisette Marketing

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How to tell your brand story by doing nothing, lessons from Chimpanzee

Last week Maria and I decided to check out what Disneynature’s new film Chimpanzee might have to teach us about storytelling. Turns out, quite a bit.

Led by director Alastair Fothergill, who also produced BBC’s Blue Planet, the Chimpanzee crew set about finding the narrative in what must have appeared to be a series of disparate events when shooting began.

In plain English: they sat around shooting footage and getting attacked by sweat bees, literally waiting for the story to come to them. Later, they used devices like time-lapse sequences to creepy mushrooms (yes, fungi are a device in this movie) to show and tell a fascinating story of love, trust, family and socio-political drama among chimpanzees.

Your company or magazine could definitely do the same, even without sweat bees, especially if you’ve got a brand journalist on your side.

Find out why you should and how you can in our new Story by Numbers podcast available on iTunes now.

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Is it nap time yet? Polyphasic sleeping for freelancers

Ani DiFranco once sang: “Nobody likes their job / Nobody got enough sleep.” Clearly she didn’t know many freelancers. We all love our jobs, all the time, right? OK, maybe not all the time. But we are able, at least in theory, to get enough sleep.

I love the flexibility that freelancing affords to write into the wee hours when I’m “on”—sans anxiety over unfinished business, looming early morning alarms or co-worker judgement about lunch time power naps. And I know I’m not the only freelancer who feels this way.

“I am here to tell you, the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is: getting enough sleep.” ᔥ Ariana Huffington

Turns out, we’ve got science on our side: 85 percent of mammals enjoy polyphasic sleep—that is, resting in multiple bursts instead of a single eight-hour block. Records show that humans practiced a form of sporadic sleep until relatively recently in our history. According to historian Roger Ekirch, before the 19th century, people tended to sleep in two four-hour blocks, with a break for prayer, reading or leisure activities in between.

In many places outside the work-crazed United States, nap time still comes first. During my caravan in Africa, many of my fellow campers kept a round-the-clock schedule, sleeping an hour or two at a time over a 24-hour period. And, of course, the Spanish have long since appreciated the virtue of a 20—30 minute siesta after the midday meal.

I don’t think I’ll be converting to a full-on polyphasic sleep regimen any time soon, but I have started thinking of “insomnia” as creative time (or “Hunger Games time,” last night.) I write late, I read late and I sleep late and/or power nap as needed the following day.

The Sleep Foundation points out numerous benefits to power napping: improved job performance, an increase in alertness, even a psychological boost from the “luxury” of napping during the day. The key is to keep naps short, to prevent grogginess, and early in the day, so they don’t affect night time sleep.

Still not convinced? Check out media maven Ariana Huffington’s TED Talk on the virtues of sleep.

Photo by tm-tm

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Freestyle your hair with homemade beauty products

After watching the movie No Impact Man last week, I started thinking more about the waste that comes from cosmetics use. Sure, you can recycle all those bottles, but as many experts point out, recycling is often more like “downcycling.” All that plastic isn’t necessarily turned into something better and—surprise!—the recycling process itself requires energy.

Even though I do a lot of DIY-ing, I always kind of left cosmetics, especially hair care items, out of the equation. I rationalized that women who could use hair product of the homemade variety had straight, no-muss-no-fuss hair that just doesn’t require the crazy cocktail my curly locks can’t live without.

But this week I felt convicted, so I decided to do some digging. First stop: Naturallycurly.com, the go-to source for curlies of every spiral, coil and kink. Since my last visit, the website has started a recipe section, which is searchable by hair, product and media type. Turns out a lot of curly girls are trying to minimize the impact of their curl regimen on the environment, not to mention their bank accounts, by experimenting with homemade concoctions—ones that don’t require an advanced degree in chemistry or a storeroom of crazy ingredients to mix up.

As I write this, I’m sitting outside with a coconut milk-and-cornstarch natural curl relaxer and I just cooked up a batch of flaxseed-based hair gel. I can’t tell whether they work yet, but I can say that I’m loving the idea of putting on my body the same things I put in it. I’m also digging the fact that if my curl softening treatment “doesn’t work” the evidence will most likely be that nothing actually happens, not that all my hair breaks off or falls out: a frequent consequence of harsh chemical treatments gone awry. Finally, it turns out that the magical and mysterious product formulas sold by environmentally friendly brands like Aveda and Pureology actually include a lot of same, fairly common, ingredients that I mixed up today.

So why is this in a freelance lifestyle magazine? Well, one of the things I love about setting my own hours is that I have the time—or at least the flexibility to adjust my schedule and make time—to prioritize reducing my lifestyle impact by refinishing/upcycling used furniture, cooking instead of eating out, making my own household cleaners and, now, experimenting with making my own cosmetics.

And there’s another benefit for freelance writers: If you’re trying to carve out a niche for yourself as a green writer or want to set yourself apart from other lifestyle reporters, this is a great way to do it. Just today, I’ve learned about the chemical properties of glycerin, found a community of people (read, potential sources) already trying this stuff and a variety of magazines and blogs who publish related content.

Has the freelance switch lowered your carbon footprint? Do you have a favorite recipe for eco-friendly home or body care? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.

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Down the rabbit hole: urban farms, Cory Doctorow and language construction

Today was a wonderful restful day that included a four-mile walk around the lake and a long fall down what Maria Popova has called the “rabbit hole of discovery.” In no particular order, here are a few of the items I encountered on the trip down:

  • Second Act’s piece on former basketball player-turned-urban-farmer Will Allen highlights the intersection of African-American history and agriculture—a truly refreshing departure from the white, 20-something hipster profiles that abound in slow food stories. (While you’re at it check out the vertical garden Allen’s nonprofit Growing Power is working on in Milwaukee.)
  • The “I Write Like” analyzer will tell you which famous author you write like. I plugged a few chunks of text in and came up as Cory Doctorow more often than not. I wasn’t familiar (but I was dubious), so I checked out his website. Doctorow is a blogger and journalist who (he says) doesn’t update his personal site as frequently as he should. He’s also into sci-fi. I’m no longer dubious about the analyzer.
  • I read a few reviews of Game of Thrones, an HBO series that I might like if every single female character wasn’t subject to actual or threatened rape, molestation or other sexual violence. (Oh wait, there is that consentual incest, so maybe all-but-one female character…) Here’s an alternative perspective from the Atlantic.
  • On a more positive but related note: the Language Creation Society site. Familiar with only three languages cited on the home page—Dothraki (from Game of Thrones), Esperanto, and Klingon, which is apparently an “artlang”—I was waaaay out of my nerd league here. Fortunately, there is a language construction kit for the unitiated like myself.

Photo by ecstaticist

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I'm a smart, sassy, globally-mobile freelance writer, content creator, brand journalist and nonprofit storyteller. The world is my office. Email me to find out more.
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