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Freebie Etiquette (Yes, There is Such a Thing!) When you are on the hunt for free stuff, it can be easy to be so blinded by the offers that your manners go flying out the window completely. You may also just not realize that when it comes to taking advantage of freebies there is a general code of conduct that it pays to follow. While you are racking up the free stuff, keep these common courtesy rules in mind so that you are doing your part to keep the hunt for freebies fun and enjoyable. Freebie etiquette rule number one is to remember that there is a face behind every freebie, no matter how distant it may seem. Since so many freebies come from websites and you don?t actually have interaction with a human being while you are getting them, it can be very easy to forget that someone (or very likely, a lot of someones) worked hard to bring you that website and that free deal. If you have a problem with a website or a form while trying to get some free stuff, deal with it as respectfully as you would if you had to approach a customer service rep in person. Leaving foul-mouthed posts on a message board or unloading a barrage of outrage on a customer reply form isn?t the way forward. Someone ? a real person ? will have to help you, and you?ll get a lot further by treating them with respect. Respect is also the name of the game when it comes to rules attached for freebie offers. There are often restrictions in place for taking advantage of free offers, such as the age you have to be to cash in on the offer or how many offers per household can be taken. Sure, there are plenty of ways to get around these rules and ?trick? a company into giving you an offer for which you are not really eligible. However, when you try to simply bleed out as many free offers as you can, you?re only making it hard on companies to be able to keep bringing these offers to you. If this freebie isn?t for you, take a back seat and make room for the folks who can take advantage of it. Your time will come. Related to this last rule is the idea of not being too greedy when gobbling up the free stuff. Just because something is free doesn?t mean you should use a ?smash and grab? approach and go for as much as you can get of anything you can get. Remember that there are a lot of other people out there who like to get in on the freebies, too, and think about how you would feel if you lost out on something you really wanted because someone came along and took them all. Don?t take more than your share of any free offer, and don?t take things you don?t want or need just because they?re free. Everyone loses when you do that. Last but not least, if you have an opportunity to say thanks for a freebie, grab it. Of course, this can be hard to do when the free offers you are taking advantage of are found on the Internet, but there are still ways. Look for the customer comment field in the request forms you fill out to get your free stuff and leave a quick thank you there. You can also write a thank you on message boards and chat rooms that are associated with the freebie websites. The good will generated by your gratitude will only help convince companies that freebie offers are useful tools for reeling in the customers.

The Ins and Outs of Free Writing Contests (free writing contests) Free writing contests are available by the thousands. They are virtually a dime a dozen on the Internet. No matter what your niche is in the writing community there is a free writing contests out there for you. How do you know which ones to enter and which ones are legitimate? That?s simple. You do what you do best-- research. While providing the story for the free writing contest will probably be the easy part, researching the thousands of available contests will be a daunting task. If this is un-chartered water for you, you have the start at the beginning. Finding what free writing contests are available. Grab a notebook or start a word document and list the contests that are available. Beside each contest name you will want to put what kind of writing they are looking for and when it needs to be done by. By doing this first you will be able to eliminate any that do not coincide with your writing niche or with your schedule. Now the free writing contest research begins. Finding out if a contest is worthwhile and legitimate is comparable to running a background check on a person. First check the contest website. Do they have all contact information available? Do they tell you what company is hosting the contest? If they are not, you will have likely found warning number one that it is a scam. So scratch those off your list or at least move them to the bottom until you can find out more information on them. Start asking around to colleagues and writers groups. Search the writing forums and the Internet scam sites. The Better Business Bureau is also a good place to look. Once you narrowed the free writing contests down to the legitimate ones, read the contest rules and regulations. Some contests require you signing over all rights to a story even if you don?t win. Are you willing to do this? Giving up rights to you writing is a lot easier to do when you are getting something in return. After you enter there is no going back, so make sure this is what you want to do. The final thing you need to look for is if the contest is just a cover up to get you to buy services or products. This does not necessarily mean they are a scam or don?t actually award winners. It simply means that they will try to entice you to use their critiquing services or offer you a book at a reduced fee that your work will be published in. Being published sounds like a great deal but is it a book that carries prestige that people are going to see? Many authors think that writing contests will launch their career into a successful endeavor. This is not the case, especially for free writing contests. Even winning the grand prize of a smaller known contest is not going to affect your literary journey. Even though they may not springboard your career, there are good reasons to join writing contests. You will get unbiased opinions and valuable feedback from the judges. If you make it into the higher rounds, editors could also see your writing. Ultimately whether you enter a free writing contest the choice is yours. Just ask you self if the time spent writing and researching the piece you choose to enter is worth writing for free in most cases. The critique and feedback may be the most worthwhile thing you receive from the contest. But then again the judges opinions are a dime a dozen just like the contests.

Following Up on Fallacies about Getting Free Stuff ?Free stuff? ? the mere whisper of the words is often enough to make many people throw common sense out the window and head for the free goods like a missile to a target. And then there are those people whose eyes glaze over when they hear those words, because they can?t believe anything worth having can actually be free. The truth about free stuff is really somewhere in the middle. Yes, you can really and truly cash in on many freebie deals for things that you want to have, but a healthy sense of cynicism about free gear is also useful. Here are some of the important things to keep in mind about free stuff. The first myth you should throw out the window is that nothing good comes for free. The fact of the matter is that the price tag on a good doesn?t always match up to the quality, and there are many great free things out there. Case in point: music. Sure, everyone has heard the scare stories about file sharing online, and maybe some big record labels will come after you if you focus on their artists. Dig a little below the surface, however, and you can find a whole new world of really great bands that are more than happy for you to listen to their music over and over again. The same goes for free software. People on the cutting edge of technology who have a passion for creating new and efficient applications often develop open source code software. They?re doing it for the love of it, and they often have more talent than any ten suit-and-tie tech guys trying to hock their latest product for a mega profit margin. Here is where the reality part comes in, however. Yes, you can find wonderful things that are completely free ? but yes, you can also find a lot of free things that aren?t worth your time at all and in some cases can cause you a lot of trouble. The net is a great place to fall victim to a ?free stuff? scam, but you can also sometimes come across these scams in the mail as well. If something is free, but requires you to give your credit card number or bank details, run the other way. Another myth people have about free stuff, especially free stuff on the internet, is that when you try to cash in, the only free stuff you will be getting is an inbox full of more spam than you can handle. The truth about this is, well, that is can certainly be true. Many companies give away free things in exchange for your email address, so they can try to hit you up to purchase things in the future. What makes this a myth, however, is that it can be avoided. If you don?t want to choke on an inbox of spam, and who could blame you, set up a special (free) email account that you will use exclusively for freebie hunting. You?ll have the best of both worlds. The last myth about free stuff involves the ?catch? people are always looking for. Often, for free stuff, the catch is a bit of junk mail or email or the fact that you have to submit to a time consuming survey. Sometimes, the catch is that if you get free stuff through a trial offer, if you don?t cancel it, it keeps coming, and this time you have to pay. The truth about these catches is, however, that the catch is in the eye of the beholder. These things don?t make products any less free; so don?t write off every free offer offhand. You might just find a catch you can live with to get a great free product you really want.

Four Ways to Create a Better Work Environment and Increase Job Productivity What kind of environment do you think creates the most potential for job productivity ? one in which everything is very regimented and the workers perform their work because they are afraid of ?getting in trouble,? or one in which the workers are relaxed and allowed a great deal of freedom and flexibility? It is the great working conundrum ? to get workers to do more, you have to let them work less. Further, you have to create a work environment in which work is not stressful. In fact, creating an environment in which work is even enjoyable and a pleasure gets the best results of all! If you want to get your employees to improve their job productivity and job performance, forget about cracking the whip. Instead, think about how you can make coming to work appealing for them, so they actually want to get things done for you! The first way to create a better work environment and increase job productivity comes down very much to your attitude and the way you treat your employees. Make sure you create an environment in which your workers can come to you and discuss work related problems they are having with you. The feedback you get from them will enable to make sure the office is working as efficiently as possible. Additionally, it will allow you to stay on top of everything that is happening in the office much easier ? instead of employees trying to hide mistakes and problems from you, they will bring them to your attention and work on finding a solution. Above all else, creating a good relationship with your employees will keep the mood in the office positive ? no one likes working for someone who doesn?t appreciate them or casts a black cloud over the office. You?ll get more out of your employees if they are happy when they are at work. The next thing you can do is consider ?fun? options, like a dress down day once a week or a weekly office lunch get together. These kinds of shared activities increase the team building and the morale among the workers in your office. When everyone feels like he or she is a member of a team, they will be more likely to feel responsible to each other and perform better at their daily tasks. The third idea for creating a better office environment is related to the second, but has more to do with the actual office itself. Open plan offices are believed by experts to increase feelings of belonging and team membership among employees. Try to encourage shared workspaces and a healthy exchange of ideas between your employees at all times. Again, when employees feel like they are part of a team working together for a common goal, they will be more likely to make sure they are holding up their end of the bargain. Last but not least, make sure your employees are well rested and as stress free as possible. Allowing flex time hours in your office is a great way to give employees more control over their time; it gives them time to get rest when they need it or take a day off when they need to recharge. Encourage your employees to disconnect from the office when they are not at work instead of being constantly available, even after hours or when they are on vacation. An employee who actually gets some time off will be more productive when they return to the office. Likewise, make sure that the office has a break room that offers a real respite for employees during the day, and encourage employees to make use of it. Allowing your employees to get they breaks they will increase their ability to deliver for you when they return.