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Since its inception in the 1980s, the IWOC monthly newsletter, Stet, has featured helpful news, tips, and information for IWOC members and the entire Chicagoland freelance writing community—including previews and recaps of IWOC meetings and events, book and service/software reviews, and advice for developing and sustaining business as an independent writer. As of January 2018, the standard monthly newsletter format has been replaced with the blog format contained on this page, which allows articles to be posted in a more timely fashion. 

Whether or not you're a member of IWOC, we invite your contributions. Our only criteria are writing quality and the usefulness of the information to writers. IWOC reserves the right to gently edit submissions. For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor.

ViSIT THE Stet ARCHIVES

Over the years, the Stet delivery format has evolved from snail-mailed paper copy to emailed PDF/HTML file to site-hosted, aggregated blog. Stet issues in PDF/HTML and aggregated-blog format from 2002 to 2017 are available for viewing in our archives.

  • To view PDF/HTML issues of Stet (published from 2002 to 2015), click here.
  • To view Stet in its aggregated-blog format (published from 2016 to 2017), click here.

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  • 25 Oct 2022 2:50 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In March of 2020, I wrote a Stet article regarding the future of freelancing and AB5, an unpopular bill that was passed in California with the possibility of “copycat bills” spreading to other states. Turns out, that possibility may now be coming to fruition. It all has to do with pretty much eliminating the category of Independent Contractors, from Uber drivers to real estate agents to graphic artists, consultants, photographers to – wait for it  -- writers of all stripes – journalists, copywriters, editors, etc., making it mandatory that clients administer what’s called the ABC Test to determine the classification of the indie contractor(s) they hire. 

    If the Independent Contractor doesn't pass the 3-prong ABC that would classify them as a freelancer, the client must hire them as a full-time employee -- whether or not the client can afford it. Nor will there be any consideration for the Independent Contractor, who may not want to give up their business and become an employee. Should the client-cum-employer incorrectly classify them as Independent Contractors, they could face penalties and a fine. This will not only crush (and in CA, has crushed) the businesses of freelancers, but of small businesses as well. In CA, numerous carve-outs had to be made. It remains a confusing mess.

    The Mandate

    Most recently, the Biden Administration is aiming to mandate the ABC Test nationwide via the "Protecting the Right to Organize Act" (PRO Act). The legislation containing the ABC Test has passed the House of Representatives and now sits in the Senate, awaiting a vote. At the state-level where the ABC Test has been proposed, (NJ, NY), there was a tremendous uproar, as it threatened the livelihoods of millions of freelancers and small business owners. As a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the ABC Test is a job killer. 

    If the ABC Test ruling doesn’t sit well with you, I urge you to contact your U.S. Senators, telling them to oppose the ABC Test in the pending PRO Act.

    Additionally, please register your opposition to a pending U.S. Department of Labor regulation that would have the same effect on our freelance business. You can comment at https://www.regulations.gov/

    The pending US Department of Labor regulation contains 6 factors, that would also end our choice to work as freelancers. 

    The deadline for commenting is December 13.

    Spread the word

    In short, the attack on freelancers is occurring at the legislative (Congress) and executive branches (USDOL) of the federal government and in states around the country. The 3-prong ABC Test and the 6 factors in the USDOL regulation are designed to do the same thing: make it too hard to remain a freelancer.

    Freelance writing is the life we all have purposefully chosen. We do so fully cognizant of the pitfalls, but none of them are enough to have us give up the way in which we wish to make a living: with the freedom and flexibility that best fits our lifestyle, and that is completely within our rights to enjoy. Any laws or regulations that impinge upon that right deserve to be summarily sent to the trash heap. Or we just may have to change our name to Dependent Writers of Chicago.

    Sources:

    Fight for Freelancers USA

    Fight for Freelancers USA Press Release

    What is the ABC Test?

       -- Laura Stigler

    Disclaimer: While IWOC in general is opposed to legislative and regulatory actions that are unfavorable to Independent Contractor business operations and that are the antithesis of our mission of helping freelancers succeed, the above article is the opinion of IWOC President Laura Stigler and does not necessarily reflect the stance of all IWOC members.


    -- Laura Stigler

  • 26 Sep 2022 5:07 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)


    Let’s give a round of applause for the most recent of our always-popular Roundtables! In this well-attended episode held on September 13, the questions and advice went flying, thanks to Moderator / Board Member, the very affable Anne Hagerty. Setting the table with a “safe space,” Anne made it comfortable for everyone to speak freely about whatever was on their minds. (Writing- and business-related, of course.)    


    I’d like to share some of the knowledge gained during that fruitful hour by going over a few of the topics discussed, just in case they happen to be what is on your mind as well.  (Participants’ names have been omitted out of respect for their privacy.)


    1.  A taxing situation. Speaking of privacy, this topic had to do with concern about providing one’s Social Security number on those

    W-9 forms we often have to fill out when we land a new client. The advice: Instead of entering your SS#, contact the IRS to obtain an E.I.N. number (Employee’s Identification Number). Come tax-filing time, an E.I.N. will enable the IRS to connect with your SS#, while keeping the latter under wraps. 


    2.  Multiple submissions conundrum.  What if you wish to pitch the same idea to several editors of various publications? For fear of offending any of them, do you submit to one at a time? And then how long are you supposed to wait for a response? That could take, like, forever! The upshot advice: For each submission, you could make a slight change on the angle of the topic. That way, it doesn’t look like you’re submitting the exact same thing to all the editors, which could raise a red flag. (And the ire of competing editors.)


    3.  Is it ok to say “no” to an assignment? The consensus: Only when it is so out of your wheelhouse, way above your pay grade, against your religion or moral fiber – or the thought of it just turns your stomach. If it doesn’t do any of those things, just say “Yes!” You’ll surprise yourself at what you can do, and the satisfaction you’ll feel when you’ve tackled it. Plus, taking on something you’ve never done before will add to the diversity of your portfolio. As for the assignment you declined, perhaps recommend another (IWOC) writer who may be perfect for it. (Just make sure you first get permission from that writer!)


    Much more was covered – and discovered in our session. Wish you were there! If you were, thank you so much for attending. If you’d like to mention other helpful advice that was shared ‘round the table, click the dots next to the headline to comment below. 

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 30 Aug 2022 5:12 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)
    With a tip of a pink sequined hat to Sir Elton John, I am here to announce that yes, after all these years, IWOC is still standing. Tall and strong. A remarkable accomplishment, considering what the world has been going through in the last two of those years. As you may have heard, other long-standing local writers organizations have not been so lucky and have recently closed their doors. So how is it that IWOC is still here? Three reasons that I can think of, which have nothing to do with luck: 

    1.    An ability to adapt in order to ensure our business continues as usual during unusual times;
    2.    A dedicated handful of volunteers;
    3.    Regular communication with our members to keep their spirits buoyed with announcements of programs, events, job opportunities and more.

    For example, looking back at 2021-2022:

    2021-22 IWOC Programs 

    Like a candle in the wind...

    ...we swayed but always remained brightly lit, zig-zagging between Zooms and in-person meetings, depending on the mandates of the hour. Thanks to Program Chair Jeff Steele and his stellar Program Committee members Vladimire Herard and Betsy Storm, along with contributions by other IWOC members, the following programs were presented to help make us wiser business people, savvier self-marketers, and even spark ideas about writing career options we might never have considered. 

    •  IWOC’S Ever-popular Annual Writers’ Roundtable, where everyone had their say! (This is the only program not recorded, so all participants can speak freely.)
    • Charge What You’re Worth...and Get It (Presented by “no-nonsense” business coach, Katie McManus)
    • Journey Into Travel Writing (Hosted by experienced, peripatetic travel writers Pamela Dittmer McKuen, IWOC members Jeff SteeleCindy Bertram and Kathryn Occhipinti)
    • Communication Challenges in a Disinformation World (Public relations practitioner John Lyday held court)
    • Tips for Perfecting Your Query Letter (Charmingly offered by award-winning writer, screenwriter, and video producer Audrey Wilson)
    • Tips and Myths: Legal Best Practices for Freelance Writers (Clearly explained by Arts Attorney Elizabeth Russell)
    •  Great Site for Source Searches – and More (A treasure trove of sources for writers was unlocked by Qwoted.com co-founder Matt Kneller and Media Success Manager Vannyda)
    • Writing About People’s Lives (Panelists Pamela Dittmer McKuen, Danielle Perlin-GoodJeff Steele and author of Bright Lights of the Second City, Betsy Storm – lent their words of wisdom garnered from extensive experience in writing profiles of people.
    • Effectively Grow Your Community and Following (Founder of I Spark Change, Ultimate Success Coach™ Rick Ornelas offered his expertise on how to expand your reach and generate more impact from your writing.)

    Members who missed any of the above can download the podcasts (except for the Roundtable one) on our Member Resources page to benefit from the info- and advice-packed gems. 

    Got ideas for writing- or business-related programs? Contact Jeff. We welcome them all! 

    2021-22 IWOC Parties

    We writers are nothing if not uninhibited revelers once we break out of our writing lairs. Last December, we let loose at our December Holiday Party held at the exotic Star of Siam (A Fine Affair). For our August Greektown bacchanalia, we raised a glass (ok, numerous glasses) at Athena. And this year, we added yet another excuse for writers to go wild: our first Spring Equinox Supper Club, celebrated in April at the century-old Exchequer Speakeasy and Pub. It was “da bomb.” We fully expect the Supper Club to become an annual Spring tradition. Can you feel the love tonight?

    IWOSC Programs

    IWOC members also attended, free of charge, several of the programs offered by our West Coast sister organization, Independent Writers of Southern California. Over the course of the year, they were treated to:

    • Annual Literary Agent’s Panel: How Writers Can Get Represented Today (Panel of top New York and Beverly Hills literary agents seeking writers)
    • What Does Hollywood Want? (For would-be screenwriters and content creators)
    • Writing the Historical Romance Novel
    • Marketing Your Books in 2022 Prosperous Post-Pandemic Promotion
    • Self-Publishing with BookBaby (Steven Spatz, President Emeritus of BookBaby)
    • Everybody’s a Critic! Get Your Writing Noticed by Top Critics – or Become One Yourself
    • Writing the Celebrity Bio
    Events of Interest

    IWOC and IWOSC were not the only ones who put on outstanding programs. We also informed IWOC members about these world class events:

    • Pandramataica Drama Festival for the Alliance of LA Playwrights 
    • Professional Grant Proposal Writing Online Workshop (National Funding Foundation)
    • Online Speed Networking: Meet Your Freelancing Match (Software & Information Industry Association)
    • Make a Statement Writing Workshop (Evanston Arts Center)
    • Spring 2022 Speakers Academy Program (National Speakers Association-IL)
    • American Writers Festival (Chicago Cultural Center/American Writers Museum)
    • A Night of Live Storytelling and Music (ProPublica Midwest reporters)
    • The University of Chicago Press Annual E-Book Sale

    Promoting our members

    Proud of their breaking news and accomplishments, horns were tooted for...

    Perk alert

    If you’re an Associate Member, you can now access the Job Board and Job Sites page. (Upgrade to Professional Level and have your Specialties and Areas of Expertise displayed on the Online Directory – the better potential for clients to hire you!)

    Unlike Elton...

    We’ve no intentions of staging a Farewell Tour. Since 1981, IWOC has been determined to be here for the long haul, far into the future. As for writers reading this who happened to belong to those writer organizations that have closed their doors, we welcome you to enter ours. If I do say, you simply won’t find a writers organization with more amiable people who are happy to help each other succeed. That’s what friends are for.

    -- Laura Stigler


  • 31 Jul 2022 9:42 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    Believe it or not, IWOC isn't secretly run by a chipper group of hamsters scurrying on a treadmill. It actually takes people to keep this beloved organization going – people like...you! Wait, don’t turn away! It’s not hard work, really. And the more people who volunteer, the easier it is for everyone. Not to mention the more beneficial to IWOC (and you). So I’ve three quick ways members can get involved.

    1)  TO MEMBERS: Please! Nominate a candidate for the Board of Directors. Submit names to the Nominating Committee, by Tuesday, August 30. Who would you like to see on the Board of Directors? Among IWOC members, whose ideas, creativity, energy, street smarts and just all-around get-along personality do you believe would serve IWOC well? If you know someone, do tell. And if that name happens to be yours, that would be the best of all! 

    2)  Run for the Board of Directors. Serving on the Board is not the time-consuming drudgery one fears. It is fun. The time commitment is nominal. Just one 1-hour meeting a month. Plus, you’ve got the bully pulpit for presenting your ideas, bringing them to fruition, and creating the IWOC “of your dreams” – which could help your own career as well as those of your fellow IWOC’ers. To qualify as a candidate, first, you must be an IWOC member. Having been a member for at least one year is preferred, but not required. Appreciating the value in IWOC and having the desire and viable ideas to make it even better are what matter most.

    Or... 

    3)  Come join a Committee.  Maybe this would be more up your alley. Choose a Committee that jibes with your interests, skills or desires. There’s one for Membership, Programming, Public Relations, Social Media, Stet Blog, the Website...or form a new Committee altogether. It’s amazing how simply getting involved in this way can boost your confidence, your enjoyment level – and your cachet on your resumé.

    We all have a stake in this organization. There is a reason you joined IWOC (or may want to), whether it’s to get more work, learn more about the business and craft of writing, find networking ops, or venture out of your writer’s lair to meet new like-minded friends. But keeping IWOC beneficial, relevant, and vibrant doesn’t happen by magic. (Or hamsters.) It needs members getting involved. Please do.

    If you’ve questions about any of the above, please contact me at president@iwoc.org. 

    Not a member? Become one! And start taking advantage of all the benefits that members enjoy.


    -- Laura Stigler

  • 04 Jul 2022 2:11 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    Moving right along here on our “IWOC Offers That???” tour...Hope you got a chance to explore our previous points of interest you never knew existed? The Meeting Podcasts, Contract template, our Mentor Program, the Rate Survey? Did you take some selfies? Good! Today, we’re going to do a deeper dive into IWOC’s Member Resources page. So grab your scuba gear and let’s jump right in...

    “Cold Call Marketing” PDF: Geez, no wonder no one likes it down here. Just the thought of having to make cold calls leaves most of us...cold. But you know what? After you read Jim Leman’s lively presentation on this tried-and-true marketing technique, cold calling becomes a concept you can really warm up to. Love the excitement Jim conveys about how the mere act of cold calling “excites certain molecules in the atmosphere,” almost magically bringing in business from out of nowhere – sometimes from clients you haven’t heard from in years! Try it. It works. But read Jim’s take on it first.

    “There’s An App (and Website) for That” PDF: Members Betsy Storm and Jennifer Rueff really got their apps together for this one. All kinds of apps divided into categories to help the way you work and even your writing go smoother. Look! There’s a bunch to help you do Research! And over there! Writing-related Websites! Aww, look at that: A grouping that helps manage time. Wait! Here come apps about Billing! Blogging! and – ok, enough rubbernecking. But do check out this wildly informative document. It’s app-solutely fabulous. (A few corrections: the website to “Grammar Girl”: is https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl/;  For the “Word Press” app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/wordpress-website-builder/id335703880; for Free Wi-Fi apps, Google “Free Wi-Fi” apps.  

    Hmmm... what else can we discover while we’re down here...Eureka!

    “Get and Keep Clients” PDF. Who doesn’t want to do that? Leave it to member Joen Kinnan to share her wealth of knowledge in a way that’s not only like having a conversation with a very wise friend, but will have you come away feeling almost as wise as she! Timeless common sense advice that’s not always common. Like: “The minute you get an assignment, think of yourself as being part of the client’s team.”  Many more gems where that came from. Dive into this PDF, and you’ve found a treasure.

    Better come up for air now. Maybe grab a bite (I’m in a seafood mood). Then feel free to return to Members Resources to search through the above in glorious detail. 

    Not a member? Join! And have access to the wondrous world of IWOC!

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 31 May 2022 9:02 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    Alright everybody, back on the bus! We’re about to embark on the second leg of our “IWOC Offers That???” tour, the first having been launched in the March Stet, where we discovered 1) a treasure trove of podcasts and handouts from meetings past, and 2) a “Letter of Agreement” template that can sure come in handy, especially when negotiating with a first-time client. Chomping at the bit to find out what else IWOC offers that may have escaped your notice? Let’s roll.

    First stopOur “Find a Mentor” Program. Wait, what? There’s a Mentor Program? When did this happen? Oh, about four years ago, when we finally got the hint after being asked at every turn, “Does IWOC provide mentoring?” I can now answer not only with a resounding “Yes!”, but that we currently have 17 members representing writing disciplines from across the board, who are eager to share their expertise and knowledge. And the beauty of it is, mentoring works both ways: Whether you get a charge out of taking someone under your wing and imparting your hard-fought wisdom – or if you wish to be mentored and have some of that wisdom imparted to you, our Mentoring Program is a win-win. For everyone.  ("Find a Mentor" is located under the "For Members" tab.)

    Next stop: The Business & Rate Survey. Let’s admit it. Finding out what other writers charge is one of our guilty pleasures. Aren’t you dying to know, say, what journalists are paid for writing a magazine article? What is the going rate for writing a brochure, or radio spot? And white papers: how much does one get for writing those? Our juicy Business & Rate Survey has all the answers, gleaned from IWOC member participants. Why would anyone want to know such stats, other than unabashed curiosity? For one thing, they provide you with a reference point when you’re trying to determine what you should charge for a particular project. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market. Then again, you want to be paid what you’re worth. IWOC’s Business & Rate Survey (posted on the Member Resources page) is invaluable in helping you confidently establish your own rates. 

    Gonna let you off the bus right here so you can mosey around the various points of interest on your own – all located under the “For Members” tab. If you haven’t joined IWOC yet, do it! If you’re a lapsed member, come back! We’d love to see you again. Either way, you’ll be able to gain (or regain) access to the above benefits and so much more.

    See you next time...when I point out even more “IWOC Offers That???”  attractions.

    Happy exploring!  

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 26 Apr 2022 10:59 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    So ya want da lowdown at what went down at IWOC’s foist annual Spring Suppa Club, eh? Yeah, well lean close and I’ll tell ya. Just keep it between you, me, and dat poor sap holdin’ up da lamppost. 


    I remember it like it was yestaday.  Was 5:30 on the night of April 12th.  “Da shank of da evening,” as my foddah used to say. Or was it my muddah? Or bruddah? Nah. Pretty sure it was my foddah. (HEY! Who you tellin to get on wid it? I’m tryin’ to get you da facts here, so shaddup, will ya?) Ok, so where was I? 

    Oh yeah. So it was da shank of da evening. Limo drops me off right in front of da Exchequer – a joint dat foist opened in da ‘20’s. No, you idiot! Not 2020. I’m talkin’ 1920’s. You shoulda seen dis joint! Plastered all over da walls was shots of me -- newspaper shots, dat is. Yeah, me, wid my big mug lookin’ all cocky an’ stuff. Dere were lotsa uddah pictures, too, of famous types: Marilyn. (Marone, what a woman. May she rest in peace.) Sinatra’s mug shot from dat time he was arrested for who knows what. It’s like, dis place was a history museum!  

    So I walk in, and who do I see sittin at da bar? Tom “Pretty Boy” Lanning. I tell him to come wid me to da back room, cause dat’s where da whole IWOC gang’s meetin’ up. He follows me like a lapdog. Waiter leads us into dis private room, see? All set up with a long table, fireplace, bar. Da works. Pretty soon, da rest of da gang comes sashayin’ in. Dey all dutifully take dere seats round da table: Jeff “Baby Face” Steele. Anne “The Hatchet” Hagerty. Jorge “Spats” Rennella. Kelsey “The Knife” Hoff. Julie “Ice Pick” Polanco. Jay “The Terminator” Schwartz, Diana “The Siren” Schneidman. Brent “Bugsy” Brotine. Grace “Gumshoe” Budrys. Zulma “Muscles” Ocampo. Cindy “Bruiser” Bertram. Thomas “Rat-a-Tat” Thorson. Pam “Boom-Boom” McKuen. And yours truly, “The Prez.”

    Before ya know it, da hooch is flowin, everyone’s talkin up a storm -- I mean, dese writers, always cooped up in some lousy room. Just dem and da typewriter. It’s enough to make a body wanna bust out and shoot da breeze, know what I’m sayin here? 

    In no time, food comes out: Greek chicken. Italian beef sanwiches. Rigatoni marinara – meatballs on da side. Greek salad. Greek roasted potatoes. Mediterranean vegetables. We ate like we was kings. (Or presidents, ha ha!)

    And den...now get dis: Da chocolate cake comes out. No, no one jumped out of it. No, no, no. Nothin like that. But I swear, if anything was to die for, it was dat cake. 

    Leftovers? You wanna talk leftovers? Waiters brought out boxes and bags, and everyone stuffed ‘em with everything they can get their meaty little hands on. We all lived to eat like kings another day.

    After two hours, da gang started movin on, back into da streets, back to dere typewriters. Back to dere lousy rooms wid da 40-watt light bulb hangin over dere heads. But for one night at least, we were top of da world, Ma. Top of da world. 

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 29 Mar 2022 8:12 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    Finally. The long night is over. Peeling off our masks, we are now beginning to emerge from our Covid cocoons, eyes blinking at the sun in a state of cautious elation. Like residents in a small town, we find ourselves smiling at strangers on the street – if only because it feels wonderful to see smiles. And to wear lipstick again. Then just as we’re about to jump for joy in celebration of regaining our freedom, the other side of the world explodes into warfare.

    What a seesaw life is. While one person is flying high, wind in their hair, another comes crashing to the ground. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? How can anybody be completely happy knowing others are, at that very moment, going through unspeakable suffering. Is it selfish to be happy at times like these? Thoughtless? Do we muffle our own happiness out of guilt? That doesn’t seem fair either.

    Even during these perilous times – and perhaps especially – it’s imperative we allow ourselves to be happy. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to those around us. Suffering may be a part of life, but it shouldn't outweigh the important role of happiness. As proof, all you have to do is look at a crocus. The weather may still be wintry. The days, bleak. But despite forces working against them, here come the crocuses. Spot one poking skyward through the hardened soil, rearing its cheery head, and your spirits can’t help but be lifted. Hope has arrived. 

    We could learn a lot from those feisty crocuses. Yes, never forget what’s currently happening. Offer money, food, clothing, prayers. But keeping your own spirits up can have the magical effect of raising the spirits of those around you. That, too, is important work. There is so much going on right now that’s turning the world upside down. Spreading a bit of cheer in your own way helps turn it right side up.

    In its own way, IWOC is trying to do just that. In celebrating life, each other and the emergence from the sacrifices we’ve all made, we’re planning to get together on April 12 in what we hope to be an annual event. We’re calling it our Spring Supper Club at the Pub – the Exchequer Restaurant and Pub, that is. Something fun. Maybe even silly. But much needed. 

    We hope you join us in partaking in a little cheer that we can all take home with us and spread throughout our communities. 

    Let us all be crocuses. 

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 28 Feb 2022 10:24 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    There are some Chicagoans (probably millions) who have never been to the top of the Willis Tower. By the same token, there are some IWOC-ers (probably thousands?) who’ve never really explored IWOC’S website – never so much as taken a peek to see all the benefits and hidden jewels available.

    I can jump to such an assumption because more than once, IWOC members have approached me in a panic, not knowing what to do in various circumstances. (“Oh no! I can’t make the meeting!” or “I’ve no idea how to write a contract!”) 

    This has occurred often enough that it leaves me no recourse. Time to put on my Tour Guide hat and for the next few blog posts, show you around some not-to-be-missed IWOC attractions that exist on the “Member Resources” page of our website. My hope is that it will turn you into a regular visitor, a place you frequent often when looking for answers or inspiration. A place about which you can tell all your friends and fellow members. A place that in the professional sense, will make you proud enough to call IWOC “home.”  

    So let us begin, shall we?

    First stop:  Meeting Podcasts. Believe it or not, many members have no idea that we offer them. It’s one of the greatest benefits of being an IWOC member, because come rain or snow, flu or work overflow, the podcasts mean you never have to miss a meeting. All the information and any handouts or PowerPoint presentations are right there, to be listened to and viewed while staying in your jammies. (I can hear you “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” already!)  

    Next stop: Contract Link. Or more specifically, the “Letter of Agreement” Link. As Samuel Goldwyn once said, “An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.” So true. Coming to terms with clients when discussing the scope and cost of a project will go a lot smoother when you have it in writing. This Letter Of Agreement is ready for downloading, offering both you and your client a point of reference and peace of mind.

    I’m going to let you off the bus now. Feel free to check out the above and maybe even make discoveries I might not be aware of. Share them in the comment section!

    Meet you back here in a month or so, when I’ll show you some more “IWOC offers that???” highlights. 

    Happy exploring!

    -- Laura Stigler


  • 29 Jan 2022 9:04 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In light of a recent suspicious email that circulated among IWOC members, I thought it might be appropriate to reprint a previous post of mine along with a few new thoughts. Never hurts to revisit tips we should all keep top of mind in order to make ourselves less vulnerable to hackers and scammers. I hope these help: 

    In terms of privacy, the only thing that’s safe to say is that that nobody’s safe. If you so much as glance at a YouTube video, peek at a website, have a website, subscribe to anything online or even simply “like” something – boom! You’ve just given away a part of yourself. Your habits, your information – it’s all out there, and most aggravatingly, you’re now prone to be a victim of scams. Such as the one that was raised at our September, 2020 Roundtable meeting – which triggered other scam stories.

    One member – let’s call him Brian -- confessed that he was contacted for what seemed like a fabulous writing assignment from Biogen -- a well-known biotechnology company. Problem was, the “assignment” wasn’t really from Biogen. After going through hoops filling out forms and providing some pretty private information, the red flags starting waving. It had to do with requesting that Brian deposit money in a bank account. Fortunately, Brian then ceased all communication and suffered no real harm – other than wasted time and remorse for having been so trusting. 

    How did this all happen? Could have been that the member’s email was “scraped” – a process where spammers obtain email lists from other spammers. If your email is on the net, you’re vulnerable. Now think of all the places where you’ve entered your email, hm? Let’s just say, lots. So I’d like to offer a few security tips, some from personal experience, some from what I’ve heard. While they aren’t guaranteed to keep you scam-proof, hopefully they could help prevent such occurrences. 

    1Regarding the latest “job offer” scam that our members received on 1/11/22. Just like that one, watch out for those that offer general flattery and purport to offer jobs, but never tell you a dang thing about the supposed job being offered – and then ask you to click on a link and apply. A strong chance it’s phony. The 1/11 notice also told you to click on what looked like a very weird website that didn’t even relate to the sender’s (weird) email or the name of a company (which, by the way, wasn’t mentioned). All those are big red flags. Do. Not. Click. Ever.

    2. When providing your email address, replace the @ with “at”.  So it looks like:  “Alice at gmail.com”  I’ve even seen: “Alice at gmail dot com”  Looks illiterate, but supposedly these obfuscations have some degree of success in foiling the scrapers. One drawback is that it may be annoying to business prospects. So this method is up to you. Click here to get more opinions on it.

    3. As mentioned in #1, sender’s email address is weird. Whether it’s seemingly from a prospective client, your bank, credit card company or any company you may have dealt with, if the sender is telling you to click on a link, DON’T! DON’T CLICK ON ANY LINKS. Look at the sender’s email address. It’s not Kosher if the address is totally different from the company it claims it’s from. For instance...

    I received an email supposedly from my email provider, with their logo in the message area. Looked good! But uh-oh. They told me that my account “is about to be disconnected, so CLICK HERE TO REACTIVATE!!!” Their email address had nothing to do with my provider’s name. So I immediately marked it as spam and trashed it. (It also made no sense that my account was to be disconnected. I keep meticulous records and my auto-payments were in good standing.)

    4. But even if the email does have the “correct” name, it often can include some nonsensical figures, such as in the Biogen email one member received, which was followed with a grouping of odd letters after the word “Biogen.” A dead giveaway. That being the case, trash it immediately or relegate it to “Junk.” You can also block suspicious emails. 

    5. Check spelling. What if the email does look totally legit? Closely examine the message area. It might look like a genuine logo or banner. But there’s most ALWAYS a tell. Misspellings. Grammatical errors. Odd wording. Case in point: Normally I get alerts from USPS when a package is being delivered. The other day I got a so-called alert from tracking@usps.net. That email address sure looks like it was from USPS, no? But the legitimate alerts are always from “auto-reply@usps.com” (Note: not “.net”) Also, within the message, “USPS” was spelled “Usps” – upper and lowercase letters. Again, dead giveaway. Plus, the info in the message was unlike the usual messaging. Into “Junk” it went. 

    6. Enter url separately. Say the email looks legit, company logo, graphics, etc. You’re directed to click on a link to “update your information” or credit card, etc. If there is a website listed in the email, and you’ve an account with that company (bank, email server, etc.), quit that email, go to your browser and enter the company's actual url separately. If you have anything to correct or update with your account, you’ll know it by going to your profile. Either you’ll have a message waiting, or you’ll see for yourself if any info needs updating. Still have questions? Call the company. If it’s legit – or not, they’ll tell you so. 

    7. Google the company name followed by the word “scam.” If Brian searched “Biogen scam,” he would have seen a list of reports of the scam that borrowed the name of this reputable company.  

    And finally...

    8. Never open an email from the IRS. They never use email. They only send directly through USPS.

    These are just a few of the warning signs that when not heeded, can open you up to computer viruses and worse.  Be vigilant. The best rule of thumb is: Don’t click on anything or respond to anything that looks the slightest bit suspicious. Trust your instincts. It’s safe to say, they’re usually spot on.

    -- Laura Stigler

     P.S. Have more hints? Just click the 3 dots by the headline to comment.

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