The most important thing interviewers are looking for in job interviews.

They just want you to be real.

Sometimes you get candidates who you can tell just live and breathe the world you work in. They have an opinion on tabs vs spaces, they know about the latest news in the industry, and you can just sort of tell that this is something they care about.

Then, you have those who have the prepared answers, the ones who say things like “I’m passionate about creating synergistic solutions to strategic business asset evaluations” or some other corporate speak – they’ve read the company values and are parroting them it back to you. You can spent a whole hour with them and still feel like you don’t know the real person.

In short, they aren’t being genuine, they are saying what they think you want to hear.

I can already hear the people itching to comment along the lines of “but no one cares that much about a retail job, they just need the money”.

The thing is, the best candidates – the ones employers really want to hire – they do care – they have an opinion about restocking shelves, stock rotation, the best way to setup endcaps etc. Thats what makes them good candidates.

The truth is, an interviewer is trying to figure out three things:

  • Are you a nice person who I’d like to work with each day
  • Can you do the things you say you can do on your resume
  • And can you do it with some enthusiasm.

Thats it really.

Also, be nice to the receptionist.

In almost every interview situation I’ll ask the receptionist who they liked best, and its always the same candidate we chose. Almost makes you wonder if interviews are worth the bother!

How to figure out what jobs you (might) like to do

There isn’t really an easy answer to this other than “try jobs and see if you like them”.

Thats not super practical, so the gold standard is going to see a professional career counsellor.

This is usually a qualified psychologist who has experience applying various diagnostic tools like the MBTI or perhaps StrengthsFinder or DiSC.

They’ll use that information, along with a conversation with you, to make some recommendations on the sort of career you might like.

This can be expensive and doesn’t always get great results.

My low budget alternative is as follows:

1. Find all the jobs you like the sound of

Load up your favourite job search website, and open up every single vacancy you like the sound of.

Don’t worry about experience or qualifications or anything like that, just load up everything that you like the sound of.

2. Save and/or print your vacancies

This works best if you can print things out, but otherwise save a copy of each job advert.

3. Highlight the things that you like

Go through each of the vacancies you’ve printed and highlight the things you liked the sound of.

Maybe its something you are an expert in, something you’d love to learn, or something that interests you. Just go crazy with the highlighter

(Again, don’t censor here – if you like the sound of it, highlight)

4. Make a list

Go through your printed vacancies and write down all the things you’ve highlighted, one thing on each line.

5. Divide your list in three

From your big lists of things you like, assign each item to one of three lists – “Things I can do now” and “Things I’d love to do” or “Things I’d love to do that I can do now”.

6. Find jobs that match

Now you’ve got a summary of the things you like to do and your existing skills, you can start exploring jobs that match.

There isn’t a big secret here, its just good old fashioned research. Do some googling, follow your nose and find new ideas and start writing down job titles.

You’ll find that as you start researching new ideas will pop up and lead you in new directions.

Overall, the goal is to turn interests and skills into job ideas – this will help to focus down your job search to new areas of interest.

How to actually negotiate your freelance rate

I’ve seen a lot of freelancers working for pretty bad rates lately, so I thought I’d offer some suggestions on negotiating your rate.

This all assumes you have discussed the project and you have the time, capability and willingness to do the work.

Rule 1 – You are the expert.

You don’t take your car to the garage for repairs and then tell the mechanic how much you’ll pay. They figure out what needs doing and quote you a price. They are the expert and you trust their judgement.

It should be the same with your writing. You are the expert at providing writing services. You offer your skills at a rate, and the customer can choose if they employ you or not.

Very often your customer will have no idea on the “going rate” and part of being a professional is guiding them to the right figure.

The magic question

“What is your budget for this?”.

Almost always their budget is more than I was planning to charge, so I say “Yeah, we can work with that” and they are happy!

Or its less, and I can say “Well full price would be $XX, but if we dropped a couple of options we could work with your budget”

Or, “I’m sorry, we can’t really work with that budget – try XX down the road who are a little more budget friendly”

What if they avoid the question?

More experienced clients might be wise to the budget question (although it helps everyone if they are just honest), and will say “well what are your rates?”

Try something like “For a project like this, I’d normally charge a flat fee of $X, is that something we could work with?”, where X is twice what your got paid the last time for a similar piece of work.

If they say yes well done – a 100% profit.

More likely they’ll offer a lower rate, or at least give you some idea of what they want to pay and now we have a budget to negotiate against.

(You should be charging by project not hourly or per word as as rule, but whatever works for you)

I can’t just keep doubling my rate though

Actually you can. Because you’ll start to graduate to a better quality client as your move from one price bracket to the next.

If you are missing out on work due to price (which if you negotiating you shouldn’t be) you’ll figure out what the sweet spot is.

Or, just give them a rate

If it really comes down to it, have a rate ready. A 1000 word article at 1c per word earn you $10. If it takes you two hours to complete you are working for $5/hour.

That’s bad for everyone. For you, because its a terrible hourly rate, and for the industry, because it drives down the value of the work writers do.

So, figure out how much you’d like to earn per hour and work out how much you need to charge per word and now we have a rate to work from.

Be your own boss

Many questions I’ve seen make is seem like the poster is working for a boss. As a freelancer you are literally your own boss. Use your knowledge and expertise to lead your clients towards great quality work for a fair price and if you don’t like what they are offering – turn them down.

Along these lines – set the payment terms that you work on. “I work on a 50% deposit and 50% on completion basis”.

This is a great tool for leveraging a rate too. e.g “For projects under $50 I need payment up front before I start work”

Discounts, testimonials and loss-leaders

In general I think its a bad idea to do discounts, or free work, or cheap work in the hopes of getting more/higher paid work later. If you do a good job, a positive review shouldn’t be a problem, and I’ve found that once you have a discount in place is very difficult to go back to full price with that client again.

In Summary

  • Know what you are worth, and therefore willing to work for
  • Have a rate in mind
  • Ask for a budget
  • Lead your clients, don’t let them become your boss

Working from home during a pandemic

With the sudden lock down of New Zealand due to Covid-19 I found rather quickly that I wasn’t really prepared to actually work from home.


Day to day at home i used a 13” Macbook Air, but its primarily a consumption device. I’d never really written anything of any length. It quickly become apparent I’d need a proper keyboard, mouse and monitor.

With all suppliers in lockdown I have to made do with what I already had to start with – an external Apple keyboard. Because it was old it come with a new challenge – USB only.

It worked for a while, but still found any serious writing or spreadsheet work to be quite difficult to do on such a small screen.

Fortunately, retailers were soon allowed to sell “essential” technology products by delivery, so I ordered:

  • A 21” monitor (with HDMI input)
  • USB-C to HDMI Cable
  • Basic wireless mouse

This combination actually worked really well, but I soon ran into USB-C limitations. I could have any combination of keyboard, monitor and power – but not all three.

After a bit of research I found a basic USB-C hub with passthrough power – this means I could run everything via one USB-C port.

So far its working well, and I’m slowing getting used to using both laptop screen and monitor at the same time. Usually I’ll put video conferencing on the smaller screen and whatever “work” I am doing on the larger screen.

I’d really like to go big-screen only but two things prevent this – my reliance on touch-id on the Macbook Air (who knew this would become a must-have feature) and the webcam for video calls.

At this stage I probably won’t some things on my wish list – a vertical stand for my laptop (in clamshell mode) or an external webcam – but its useful to know what I might need in the future.


I live with my flatmate in a relatively small two bedroom apartment. Most of of the shared livings spaces are taken up with her costume making supplies, so finding a space to sit and work was challenging.

Initially she cleared a space in her sewing room for me to use, but it got very hot after about 11:00 am (it was, after all , a conservatory), but more importantly was close enough to the shared areas that it proved distracting.

I rearranged by bedroom a little are repurposed a beautiful writing table I had used as a bedside table for its actual purpose – writing.

Its a little cramped with a monitor, keyboard, laptop and mouse, but it does the job.

I’m not in love with the idea of working in my sleeping space, but its has allowed me to be more productive.