Help, I’ve no time! 4 productivity must-haves for freelancers

freelance productivity tips

Let’s face it, as a freelancer you’re Chief Executive, Marketing Manager and Office Cleaner. Having to do it all can make it difficult to stay focused. There are ways though to become a freelance ninja and really rock your business (and life) as a result.

 

Get Organized

Before you even start with any aspect of your work – be it work for a client, your own promotion or getting paid – the first step that you need to take is to get organized. And now that you work for yourself, the only person responsible for ensuring each day is a streamlined success machine (or something like that anyway) is you.

Top Tool to Get More Organized: Use Trello to plan and organise projects. I use it for every aspect of my planning. From marketing and promotions, to product launches, such as my ebooks, and to help me to plan out future blog posts for my own sites as well as for clients. And it’s not just good for freelancers working alone. In fact, Trello really comes into its own if you’re working as part of a team, as you can use it to assign tasks to others, assigning specific roles or tasks to individuals in the team. It’s a great tool for project planning, creating checklists, and scheduling deadlines.

 

Get Paid

I’ve said it before but cash is king, but if you’re an introverted freelancer (and there’s a lot of us out there who choose the freelance life) then asking clients for payment in return for your services is often a freelancer’s idea of hell. So what to do if you hate asking clients to pay you?

Top Tool for Getting Paid: One way around this is to use an online accounting package like FreeAgent, Freshbooks or Wave. Not only do they help you to manage your accounts, you can also use them to send out invoices, keep track of payments, and fill out your tax returns. But the real beauty of these packages for the shy freelancers among us is that they can be used to set up invoices to go out automatically on specific dates, as well as reminders. Set up when you’re due to be paid along with how long after your payment due date a reminder should go out and never have to chase an unpaid invoice again. You will have to make sure that you regularly upload your business bank statements to your online account (otherwise how will the system know your invoice has gone unpaid?) but other than that, you can set it up and let it do its thing.

None of these packages are free – but they’re certainly cheaper than an accountant. And when it comes to chasing payment, you could say they’re priceless.

 

Promote Your Brand (Consistently)

Marketing and promotion is one aspect of your freelance business you perhaps hadn’t considered would take up all that much time – but you’d be wrong! You need to spend around 20 hours per week on your marketing to make sure that you’re continuing to get your brand out there and make new connections with potential new clients – or indeed, to make connections with former clients who may be missing your fabulous skills!

20 hours! I hear you cry (and as a fellow freelancer, I feel your pain). While social media is only one way to promote your business, it’s an effective one (read this to find out how I won a $22k client on Twitter) and one of the easiest promotional channels to simplify as there is an element of automation that can help you out (although for goodness sake DON’T over automate. Read my tips on improving your social media presence here if you’re a newbie).

Top Tool for Brand Promotion (and social media maven type behaviour): Hootsuite is a one-stop shop for scheduling all of your social media messages in advance. While you’ll still need to check in with social media on a daily basis to make sure you’re answering queries and responding to requests, scheduling upfront can create a backbone for your social media activity, freeing up more of your time for client work – which can only be a good thing.

 

Stay Focused

I love the variety that freelancing brings. Different clients. Different types of work. No two days being the same. However, the flip side of that can be jumping from one thing to another and finding it hard to focus on one task at a time.

Top Tool for Staying Focused: If you’re really struggling to stay productive, Focus Booster is designed to help you stay on track. Based on the Pomodoro technique, where activities are broken down into 25 minute intervals, Focus Booster shows you how long you’re spending on activities, when you should take a break, and helps you to manage distractions. Why not try it out for free and see how much more productive you become?

 

So, there you go, a few quick tips – and 4 of my favorite tools – for staying productive. Any recommendations you have – or tools that you love to use? Or do you have any tips that I’ve helped keep your own productivity on track?

 

 

 

Grab a Gravatar – What is it and why do you want one?

www.gravatar.com

A gravatar – or a Globally Recognized Avatar – is a great way to get your personal ‘brand’ out there online. Put simply it’s the little image that goes next to your name when you comment on other websites – like these from my post on Why Field of Dreams Isn’t a Business Model:


 

2 Comments on Why taking the ‘Field of Dreams’ approach won’t work for your business – and what to do about it

    • Hi Daniel – thanks for your comment. Yes, you really do have to keep letting everyone know about it. So true.

      Love your post re storytelling and Japan (we are in Rugby World Cup heaven in our house).


OK, got that. Why do I want one though?

If you want to build your brand online – whether you’re a blogger, a small business, a freelancer or a non-profit – having a gravatar will help you to build your online image. Instead of that little grey or blue geometric image generated by the site you’re on, if you have a gravatar account, when you comment on blogs or interact on forums, the image that you’ve selected will show up next to what you’ve written. That can be a picture of you or your logo – whatever you choose. It’s only a small piece of your online branding, but every little helps.

It might not seem like a big deal at first but, particularly if you’re working within a certain niche, the more your image starts to crop up in different places within that niche, the more you’ll be recognized. It’s your online ID – a little bit like an online passport.

If you have a recognizable gravatar image then people are more likely to hop on over to check out your website when you comment.

 

I’m Convinced. Where do I sign up?

It’s REALLY easy – and free! to get one. Simply hop on over to the Gravatar site and set up an account using the email address that you use most frequently to comment with. Then upload an image and every time you comment using that address, your carefully selected image will show up. You can also set a primary and secondary image and email address, which is perfect if (like me) you have multiple sites.

 

Where will it show up?

Your Gravatar can also pop up in different places – and if you have a WordPress site, you can even use a nifty little plugin that will bring your Gravatar image and bio across to be used as a sidebar on your site.

 

So that’s it. The why, what and how of using a Gravatar. Go on over to Gravatar and get yours now. It’ll take all of 5 minutes.

And if you want to test it out, pop back here and comment on this post to let me know how you got on and to show off your new gravatar. Look forward to seeing it!

 

How to be a Freelancer Your Clients Will Love – The 5 Laws of Attraction

how to be a freelancer clients loveAnd here we are – finally – Day 15 of the series! (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Click here to find the rest of the series)

The trick to being a successful freelancer is having clients who come back to you or who recommend you to others.

But how do you make sure that your clients love you – and keep coming back for more?

There are obvious ways to do this – ie do a good job, deliver what you say you will, meet deadlines, deliver work of the highest standard – but I’m going to assume that you do them anyway. These are, after all, the basics in being a good freelancer.

No, this post isn’t about being good. It’s about being exceptional.

It’s about being the freelancer that clients don’t just say ‘oh yes, they did a good job’ when they’re asked about you.

These 5 laws of attraction will mean your client will become a fan. They will proactively promote you to others without being prompted.

‘I worked with her on x and she was fantastic. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough. In fact, let me give you her number’ type of recommendations. You get the picture?

Impossible?

That never happens?

Well, if it’s never happened to you, perhaps you need to study the 5 laws of attraction below because making a client fall in love with you (not literally obviously) isn’t as hard as it would first appear.

Of course, you can’t actually MAKE anyone fall in love with you. They either do or they don’t but – after the initial attraction (i.e. the bit where they’ve been impressed by what you’ve told them about your services or they like your website or someone they trust has recommended you to them) – how do you make that relationship blossom?

Well, it’s a bit like a relationship – actually, it is a relationship – so some of the same rules apply. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to buy them chocolates or impress their mother).

 

Talk to Them

As any relationship counselor will tell you, the key to a healthy relationship is communication.

At the very start of a new working relationship, you should agree your terms and conditions.

Yes, you will do this in your contract, but at the very start of a project, before I’ve even put pen to paper or held the first meeting, I go through my contract verbally with clients (because 9 times out of 10, they don’t read it!).

This isn’t me reading my contract out loud. It’s a two-way conversation during which we cover:

what to expect from me in terms of when I will deliver certain aspects of work;

when they should expect reports (I often give weekly email updates depending on the project);

what I need from them in return (e.g. access to key staff, information, payment!)

and how long I’ll take to get back to them with general enquiries e.g. if they call or email (see below).

So we’re both clear on what to expect from each other from the outset. There are no nasty surprises and we both know exactly where we stand.

This is also the conversation where you can clarify or change aspects of your working relationship – and it’s all out in the open.

Rather like those conversations with your other half where you say, ‘I don’t mind doing the cooking, but if you don’t do the dishes, I’m leaving you!’ (Just me? Oh, OK then).

 

Put Your Clients First

There’s nothing that’s likely to make you feel more loved than having a partner who puts you first.

And it’s the same with clients. Even if you feel like tearing your hair out sometimes, you should never pass that on to them. The customer is always right and all that…

Now let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that you answer their calls at midnight or reply to their emails the minute that they pop into your inbox – but you should have a policy of getting back to clients within a reasonable time frame.

Obviously, what’s deemed reasonable will depend on what you’re working on and what else you’ve got on, but personally, I always aim to get back within 24 hours or sooner – except at the weekend. Weekends are non-negotiable for me and my clients know that upfront (see earlier point re Communication).

Even if it’s just a holding email to say ‘thanks, I’m working on it and I’ll get back to you by xx.’ At least they know you’ve read it or listened to your voicemail and you’re not just leaving them hanging. (No ghosting of clients allowed).

 

Go The Extra Mile

We all like being made to feel special, don’t we?

Now, I’m not suggesting that you send them flowers or serenade them or anything like that. But what can you do to make them feel that they’re getting a really good service that perhaps other freelancers they work with don’t offer?

Is there an aspect of your service that you’d be willing to offer for free?

Don’t go crazy here and put yourself out of business with lots of freebies for high quality work, but consider what you can offer that gives them really good value without costing you too much/anything.

A free initial consultation

Free follow up support to help with implementation e.g. 1 hour Skype session per month for 3 months

Free copies of items that you sell – e.g. if you have an ecourse or ebook that’s relevant to the service you’ve provided them with, give them it for free

Or, you could be a bit more ‘friendly’…

Send a card on their birthday

Send out #FF love on Twitter or recommend them via your social media channels

If you offer a product – yes, I am going to go back to cupcakes – send them a special cupcake on their birthday or their business birthday/anniversary

Send a Christmas card – perhaps with a little gift inside that relates to your business

There are no limits here to your creativity – apart from money. Remember, of value to them while being of little cost to you is the key here.

 

Keep In Touch

You might not see your best mates as much as you used to but you know they care because they keep in touch, right?

Well, as well as offering a more structured follow up with your clients, you should check in with your clients from time to time to make sure things are going well for them.

If you don’t already have an email newsletter, you might want to think about putting one together that goes out to your clients once a quarter/month or week.

The focus should be on providing them with added value rather than just banging on about how good you are and what they can buy from you. And an email newsletter has the added advantage of keeping you at the forefront of their minds.

I’ve had many previous clients get in touch with me just after I’ve sent out my email newsletter – either to ask me to work with them again on another project, or because they want to recommend me to other people and are checking in to see what current services I offer.

 

Ask for Testimonials – and Return the Favour

You should always ask clients for testimonials. I ask as soon as I’ve finished working with people – either for a LinkedIn testimonial or for one I can use on my website (in fact, I usually ask for a LinkedIn one and say ‘can I use it on my website too?‘ at the same time).

Sometimes, a client will get back to ask what I want them to say. Rather than write it for them (which can sound a bit stilted), I usually send them a couple of examples I have from other clients and then say something along the lines of ‘it would be good if you could say how I helped you deliver x’ or ‘how I made a difference in terms of y’. That way, you will hopefully, get testimonials for the range of work that you provide and in their own words, rather than them all sounding the same.

However, for a bit of added love, when you’re asking for testimonials also ask if you can recommend your clients to other people too.

N.B. Only do this if you genuinely want to recommend them. If you think they’re best to be avoided, DO NOT RECOMMEND THEM. It will kill your own credibility.

Recommend clients via word of mouth (and ask the person you’ve recommended them to, to say that they heard about your previous client from you). You can also recommend them on social media – or even offer to provide a testimonial if it’s appropriate.

 

So those are my 5 laws of attraction AKA How to Be a Freelancer Your Clients Will Love.

Anything you’d like to add to the list? How have you made sure that you are the ‘go to’ person in your field that clients come back to and recommend to others?

 

5 Payment Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Getting Paid When You’re A Freelancer

how to get paid as a freelancer

Cash is King.

Without it, your business is doomed to failure and you’ll be back working in a cubicle before you know it.

Harsh?

Maybe.

But also true.

If you’re a freelancer who is committed to doing this gig thing in the long term, you need to make sure that you get paid consistently and on time.

If you haven’t already, check out my tips for finding new clients – because without clients you aren’t going to get paid a dime anyway.

Now that you have those lovely shiny ideal clients giving you lots of the work that you love, you need to make sure that their lovely shiny money, makes its way into your bank account.

Easier said than done – especially when you hate asking for money?

Not so…

Here are the top 5 payment hacks for getting paid when you’re a freelancer:

 

1. Decide Your Payment Terms

Large companies tend to have monthly payment terms for invoices. That doesn’t mean that you have to.

You’re a freelancer. It’s likely that you work on your own and can’t commit to more than a few projects at once (not without pulling all nighters, never seeing your friends and family, or just not having a life outside work).

Big businesses have lots of employees and high numbers of clients/customers, which is why they can afford to have monthly payment terms. The likelihood is that you can’t do that.

To keep your cash flowing in the right direction – ie into your bank account – have shorter payment terms.

My usual terms are 14 days but I’ve also invoiced on the basis of immediate payment on receipt of the work for writing projects that I’ve delivered where the project is pretty much complete when the writing is sent to the client.

It’s entirely up to you and the type of project you’re working on, but you don’t have to stick to the same terms all the time. I certainly don’t.

The other aspect you want to consider is how you’ll split the payment.

If it’s a small project, you might want to invoice for the entire amount upfront. Or at the end.

For larger projects, I’d recommend splitting the payment – ask for so much upfront, an interim payment and one on delivery of the final piece of work.

Or, for even longer or more regular project work, you might invoice monthly. The choice is yours. And again, you can change according to the project, the client or the type of work.

 

2. Have a Contract

Once you’ve worked out the fine details of the service that you will be providing: when, how and how often – you need to write it all up in a contract that reiterates what you will be delivering to the client and what you expect in return.

Make sure your name, your business name and contact details are on it along with your client’s. Sign it, date it, send two copies to your client and ask them to do the same before returning one to you and keeping one for their own records.

Will this completely avoid bad clients trying not to pay you? No.

Bad clients will do anything to avoid paying you and the trick is to identify them upfront. I could dedicate an entire post to this (in fact, I will) but I’ve usually had an instinct about whether a client is going to be difficult or not and it’s always turned out to be correct.

But will having a contract make good clients think about your terms and make sure that they’re happy with them before committing you to any work? Yes.

It also means that, if there are any niggles or queries about payment, you can both refer back to the contract to see what was agreed, thereby avoiding the need for any long drawn out wranglings over payment (hopefully).

 

3. Have a Separate Bank Account

Even if you’re not running as a formal business, you should still have a separate bank account for your freelance income.

It keeps your earning separate from your household account which has 3 main benefits:

1. it’s less confusing and easier to keep on top of client payments and debits

2. it makes it easier to fill out your tax return as you only have to refer to 1 bank account without having to separate out household and freelance payments/debits

3. if you’re really unlucky and come under investigation by HMRC or IRS (which, by the way, HMRC can do if they feel like it – you don’t have to have been doing anything wrong), it will be much easier if you just have to send them 1 set of bank accounts. Not to mention, it means they won’t be going through your household accounts and seeing how much you spend on underwear, your chocolate addiction or wine!

 

4. Use An Online Payments System

Wave, FreeAgent and FreshBooks are a few of the different accounting apps that you can use for your freelance business. Personally, I use FreeAgent and it has made my accounting life far more straightforward than it used to be.

I can generate all of my invoices from it – and send them out to clients via the system. This has the added benefit of being able to add in reminders, which means that if your invoice goes unpaid after a certain number of days, then the system sends out a reminder without you having to do anything.

You can upload your bank statements, reconcile your payments and fill out your tax return – and all for far less than the cost of an accountant.*

*My last bill for an accountant was £600. FreeAgent costs £180 pa. The above link is an affiliate link.

 

5. Give Added Value

Think about ways that you can add value to your service that will make clients feel happier about paying you – because we all like to feel as though we’re getting value for money, don’t we?

Perhaps you could offer a free initial meeting or 3 months free email or phone support after your project has ended to help clients implement what you’ve put into place for them (just make sure you are very clear about exactly how many hours of support that will be upfront).

If you’re a writer or professional blogger, you could give them a free PDF of 50 blog topics to help them stay on track with their blogging strategy or planners – like a Tweet Scheduler – to help them to stay on top of their social media.

 

Getting paid is often the area that freelancers feel least comfortable with. You don’t like asking for money or you don’t want to keep chasing invoices – or you simply forget to because you’re too busy delivering client work.

These 5 payment hacks mean that clients know where they stand from the start.

They don’t suddenly panic that they have to pay you when they weren’t expecting a bill. (Or maybe they do, but if that’s the case, it’s not because you haven’t given them warning of when to expect your bill).

Personally, I’ve used all of these and so far, I’ve never had to completely right off an invoice as ‘never going to be paid’.

What payment hacks do you have that help to keep your freelance cash flow in the black?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

Why taking the ‘Field of Dreams’ approach won’t work for your business – and what to do about it

how to get clients

Niche Business suited to your skills/passion – check

Perfect product/service for your ideal client’s needs – check

Market research – check

Ideal Client – check

 

So why are you still not getting any business?

 

Well, are you basing your business model on ‘Field of Dreams’?

If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. (For those of you with no idea what I’m talking about a) what on earth were you watching in the ’80’s and b) here’s the reference).

how to get clients

It may have worked for Kevin Costner but, sadly, the rest of us have to get out there and drum up business.

“Gah! I hate promoting myself!”

“Sales tactics are so icky – they make my skin crawl.”

“I CANNOT cold call anyone.”

“My service/product/business is perfect. Why can’t they see it?”

Because they can’t. And I know that if you’re reading this, you know it too because my readers are very discerning.

But maybe, just maybe, you’re feeling a little reticent about putting yourself ‘out there’? Or you’re not sure what the best approach to take is.

After all, chances are you aren’t a marketing or sales expert (unless of course, that’s your business) so why should you know these things?

The problem is that, as I explained in this post here – you will have to become adept at aspects of your business that you probably hadn’t even realized when you originally thought ‘Hey, I want to start my own business.’

Putting yourself out there can be scary. I’m not going to pretend otherwise, because it isn’t in my natural comfort zone either.

And when it’s your own business, it can feel a bit like you’re putting yourself and your baby out into the big bad world to face criticism.

But the bad news is, if you don’t get it out into the big bad world, your business will fail.

Sorry, but that’s the truth of it.

I’ve a friend. Let’s call him Jeff.

Jeff had a brilliant business idea. Perfectly suited to his skills and experience – and something that he was passionate about. He’d even had a few regular gigs on the side for his new offer before he left his job to set up his business full time, so he knew there was demand for it and he knew that he could do it well.

He had all the kit. A lovely shiny website. Beautiful business cards. And a clear idea of why people should use him.

But 6 months in and… tumbleweed.

It wasn’t that he hadn’t researched his market. Or that his service wasn’t in demand. Or that he wasn’t as good as others out there (he was actually a lot better than most of the competition).

It was quite simply that he wasn’t doing enough any sales and marketing for his business.

how to get clients

How much is enough?

Well, I recently read an article that said most small businesses spend 20 hours a week on marketing and promotions.

20 hours.

Can you honestly say that you’re doing anything like that at the moment?

OK, 20 hours is going to seem like a lot when you’re a freelancer who is perhaps working around childcare or school hours – but be honest, how close are you really coming to that figure?

How many emails do you send to potential clients?

How many follow up calls do you make after sending them?

How much promotion do you do through social media?

How many Facebook campaigns have you run?

How many times are you in touch with former clients, colleagues, potential partners and others in your network to let them know what you’re doing?

If you aren’t getting your name out there, you aren’t promoting your business.

And if you aren’t promoting your business, why did you spend all of that time on customer research, setting up systems, saving 6 months expenses – and all the rest of it?

Yes, I appreciate that many people don’t like the idea of selling or marketing.

And yes, before you ask, I have spent many a day faffing around, tweaking products, researching the market – and steadfastly refusing to make any calls, send any emails or attend any networking events.

And guess what? I didn’t have many clients during those times either.

 

So what’s the difference between sales and marketing?

Pop that question into Google and you will get a whole host of (often contradictory) answers.

However, assuming that you’re running a small freelance business, I think the model suggested over on Forbes works beautifully for our purposes here today.

To sum up, sales activities are carried out by people – so think direct selling, networking, cold calling, prospect emails, sales meetings – and are all about relationship building.

While marketing activities are media based – advertising, social media, word of mouth, print, TV etc.

(There is also a whole host of information out there that says marketing is long term, sales short term; marketing is strategic, sales is a numbers game – the list goes on. I’m not disputing any of these – and they kind of fit with what I’ve said above anyway – but let’s just stick with the one concept for now).

 

Which should you be focusing on? Sales or marketing?

Well, if you’re selling to other businesses (B2B), then you want to adopt a sales approach – i.e. building relationships with companies in the hope that they will buy your product or services. Think consultants, designers, accountants and so on.

If you’re selling to the public (B2C), then marketing using a range of media to promote your business will help you to reach a wider audience. Think wedding photographer, music tutor, seamstress, baker etc.

Once you know where your focus should lie, you need to make sure that you’re spending your time building your reputation, creating relationships and promoting your business in the way that’s going to bring your business the most customers.

Yes, the café around the corner does post beautiful pictures of lunch that get 300 likes each day, but if you’re selling marketing consultancy to IT companies, copying their approach might not work so well. (Although don’t let that stop you from posting articles on LinkedIn or writing a company blog/newsletter that you promote to potential clients).

There are marketing activities that B2B should be doing (as the above demonstrates). But we’re talking about going from no clients to lots of clients, so focus your initial promotional activity very specifically on the sales plan:

Write down a list of potential customers. Are any of them within your current networks? If so, prioritise and start to contact those, moving on to the colder contacts next.

Be where your customers are. If you hate cold calling, send emails or attend networking events to get to know your potential customers face to face. Join local business groups.

Ask former clients to recommend you to others in their networks.

Use your social media to build authority and increase your reputation but focus on building relationships in order to win those larger sales that typically come from B2B type models.

 

If you’re selling to customers, focus on marketing.

Where do your customers hang out? That’s where you should be. It might be that you should take out an advert in a local publication or use Facebook promotions to reach a very targeted audience. (Read this article for ideas on how to do this brilliantly).

Like the IT consultant example above, don’t try to copy others that are operating in a different marketplace from you.

If you want to become the Cupcake Lady in your locality, you don’t want to start off your marketing efforts by cold calling IT companies. (Although, again, don’t let that stop you from cold calling local businesses to tell them of lunch deals or business delivery services that you’re intending to run).

This doesn’t mean that you CAN’T go to networking events or start to form relationships with other businesses who could potentially become partners or help to promote your business. It means your focus should be on reaching your Ideal Client FIRST.

It is useless to be a creative thinker unless you can sell what you create Click To Tweet

 

So, now you know where your focus lies, how much time are you going to spend doing it?

I honestly think that 20 hours is too much to sustain in the longer term – particularly once you have clients.

And, of course, the reality is that how much time you spend on marketing is dependent on where you are in your business journey.

But, in the early days, when you’ve no clients or customers and you’re trying to persuade people to buy from you? You should be spending ALL of your time on sales or marketing.

Later in your business journey when you have clients and are doing well, you will still need to maintain awareness of your brand to ensure that you can either grow your business or sustain the momentum that you’ve worked hard to achieve.

You should continue to promote your business every single day – even if it’s just arranging to meet a former client for coffee, writing a blog post, sending out a regular newsletter or scheduling your social media for the week. Aim for at least an hour a day of promotional activity to keep your name out there – more if you have it.

Me? I probably realistically spend on average between 5 and 7 hours a week on sales and marketing.

And if I’m honest, I spend a little bit too much time on marketing promotion rather than sales promotion – mainly because I find it more fun. A little re-read of my marketing plan usually gives me the kick that I need to get back on track though.

What about you? How much time do you spend on sales and marketing? Is there anything that you struggle with or that has worked brilliantly in your business?

Let me know in the comments below…

 

Help! I don’t have any clients…

how to get clients

Winning clients when you’re a freelancer is pretty much what’s going to make your business a success. After all, they will pay the bills – as well as (hopefully) recommending you to others who will ideally become future clients.

And so the cycle goes on.

But what if you’re just starting out – or if you’re going through a lean patch and can’t find any new clients?

We’ve all been there, but the difference between successful freelancers and those who struggle, is that the former continue to find new clients, and grow their business while the latter never really hit the ground running and constantly feel as though they’re on a hamster wheel of finding clients, delivering work, finding clients, delivering work…

You get the picture.

So, if you’re stuck in a rut, what can you do to find more new clients?

 

1. Do you know who your Ideal Client is?

If you don’t, or if you haven’t thought about it for a while, it might be an ideal to complete your ideal client profile. That way, you will know who you need to be targeting in the first place to win some new business.

Even if you have already done this exercise, it’s worthwhile reviewing your Ideal Client profile every so often to make sure that, as your business evolves, so too does your target market and your strategies for reaching them.

 

2. Go for Low Hanging Fruit

If you’re going through a dry patch in terms of business, it might be worth considering potential clients who are easy for you to reach.

This will include people within your existing networks and local businesses who are easy for you to get in touch with. Low hanging fruit are, essentially, those potential clients that are easiest for you to reach. So, perhaps they might be people that you worked with when you were an employee. Or, if you’re offering a service – like social media management or web design services – low hanging fruit could be potential clients from within the networks you used to work in during your 9 to 5 job.

Figure out who your low hanging fruits are and promote yourself to them.

 

3. Who loves you already?

If you’ve been freelancing for a while now, don’t forget to go back to your former clients. Perhaps you have an additional service or product that offers them an upsell on what they previously bought from you? Or, if you’re a consultant, maybe it’s time for them to review?

Can you offer previous or existing clients an additional service or product that will enhance your previous work with them?

Maybe you could offer training to their staff to help them deliver their marketing, social media, fundraising… whatever your particular field of expertise is? Have a think about all of the different ways you could work with previous clients and go back to them with an offer. After all, they already know, like and trust you.

 

4. Consider building a mailing list.

You’ll have noticed (hopefully) that I have a little sign up box over on the right hand side of this page which gives you one of two different eguides in return for joining my mailing list.

One of the reasons for doing this is to create an audience who are interested in what Apricot Ginger is all about.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should start to write a blog (although I will be covering the reasons why it’s a good idea in a future post) but it still might be worth putting together a mailing list. You could simply add clients to your list and then keep in touch after you’ve finished working with them with news, reviews or helpful tips that relate to your business. Think of it along the same lines as after sales care when you buy a new car.

The advantage of doing this is that you stay on their radar and they consider coming back to you for their future needs.

I’ve had former clients come back to me for hands-on work, additional consultancy and training – all as a result of staying in touch with them in the first place.

One former client called me to say they’d just received my email newsletter and it made them realise I could help them with a project they had coming up.

Out of sight is out of mind. Stay in plain sight & get future work from former clients Click To Tweet

 

5. Be Irresistible

I’m not suggesting getting your hair done, waxing your legs and going to the gym 6 days a week (although I’m not going to stop you from doing that either).

No, what I mean is, figure out what your clients and potential clients really want and make yourself the ‘go to’ person.

How do you do that?

Simple.

Ask them.

Every time you work with a client ask them to complete a short client satisfaction survey that can help you to gather information on why they chose to work with you, what worked, what they’d do differently in future.

Or, if you’re just starting out and you’ve not had any clients yet, approach businesses that you know work with freelancers and ask them why they do that and what they’re looking for.

Then make sure that you are that freelancer who will meet their needs.

 

6. Go the Extra Mile

Offer something that no other freelancer in your niche offers.

Like an initial free 30 minute Skype consult.

Or a free commissioning meeting as part of your consultancy services.

Or 3 months email support after they’ve worked with you.

The trick here is to offer something that is of value to the client but won’t cost you too much to deliver in terms of time or money.

Have a brainstorm about what that might be and put it in to action.

 

Those are just a few ideas on finding new clients when your business has hit a drought. You can get lots more – as well as figuring out how to be more attractive to those potential clients when you find them – by downloading my eguide ‘How To Be A Client Magnet’ – even better, it’s free :-)

What strategies have worked for you when it comes to finding new potential clients? Please share in the comments below…

7 Essential Skills Every Freelancer Needs

essential freelancer skills
(Can it really be Day 12 of 15 Days to a Successful Freelance Business? Yes, it can).

 

Chances are you’ve spent most of your career so far working for someone else. Maybe you’ve been planning your freelance business in the evenings after work. Or perhaps you’re currently on maternity leave – or have taken time out after having kids.

What if working for an employer or managing a family means you don’t have the skills you need to run your own freelance or home business?

Well, the good news is, you probably do have most of these skills – and the ones that you don’t, you can learn (or delegate).

Top 7 Skills Every Freelancer Needs

 

1. Multi-Tasking

It’s been proven in countless studies that multi-tasking is a bad thing in terms of productivity, action and achievement.

And, while I’m not advocating doing 100 different tasks at once, the reality is that as a freelancer, you are going to have to do WAY more than just your core work if you want your business to be successful.

In other words,

Congratulations on Your New Role as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer!

It’s not as bad as it sounds but you need to get to grips with the fact that you will need to deal with most of the aspects of running a business (funnily enough).

Marketing, invoicing, writing emails & web copy, managing social media, promotions, networking, winning new work, account management, IT issues, purchasing, stationery, petty cash…

You get the picture.

PROS = No two days are ever the same

CONS = You have to do stuff that you hate, or that you have no experience of (although you can turn that into a pro. It is personal development to learn a new skill after all!)

TIP: figure out what your strengths are and where you’re in need of help and either consider outsourcing (you can use low cost sites like UpWork or Ffiver to hire a freelancer to design your logo or put together a basic WordPress site) or invest in some training. Or a combination of both depending on your budget.

 

2. Networking

“But I HATE networking!”

Yep, sure, I know you do. But I’m not talking about sleazy networking events where everyone is selling and no-one is listening to each other. What’s the point of those?

Take a fellow freelancer for a coffee to pick their brains – or discuss potential collaborations.

Meet local small businesses (aka potential clients) at local chamber of commerce events.

Tell everyone that you already know what you’re doing, who you help and that you’re looking for business.

Remember, your network isn’t just your former colleagues or professionals – it’s everyone you know from your neighbours to other parents at the school, to your best friend from school.

PROS = you’re meeting people face to face and have the opportunity to create a great impression and stick in their minds – and vice versa.

CONS = often people struggle with the idea of networking – and if it really is out of your comfort zone, read these tips on how to get the most out of a networking event without ‘selling yourself’.

 

3. Planning

You have this fantastic idea for your freelance business, you have the logo in your mind, and are raring to go – but do you have a clear strategy of where your business is headed, what your vision is, who your ideal client is…?

Planning isn’t sexy. (Although I love planning!)

In my experience there are 2 kinds of people, those who hate planning – so don’t do it or do it badly. And those who love planning – so much so that they often get stuck tweaking their plans rather than taking action.

The truth is that there’s a balance. Make sure you strike it. Get your business objectives and goals written down, write down your marketing strategy – and you will hit the ground running.

PROS = you will know where your business is headed and why which will help you to focus on what you need to do to grow and stop you wasting time on activity that isn’t going to help you to achieve your goals.

CONS = there aren’t any cons to planning really – as long as you build flexibility into your plan with regular reviews, which makes sure that you can take advantage of opportunities and adapt to any challenges that come your way rather than steadfastly sticking to the plan regardless.

TIP: Read this and this and start to sketch out your business and marketing plans today.

 

4. Promotions

Refer to my earlier point – lots of people feel uncomfortable ‘selling themselves’ and saying how good they are. But you know what, you need to get over yourself.

You don’t have to talk endlessly about being a ‘guru’ (frankly, I think that anyone who calls themselves a guru probably isn’t one) or about how wonderful you are.

You don’t have to be the bubbly person at the ‘party’ who everyone loves. Or the loud one who gets everyone’s attention.

Talk confidently about what you do – with the emphasis on the impact that you make to clients. THAT’S what potential clients are interested in.

“I provide small businesses with social media management services. My last client saw sales increase by 50% in the past 6 months, thanks to existing customers making further purchases from them as a direct result of more engagement via social media.”

Is a lot better than:

“I’m a social media maven. I love small businesses and I love Twitter. I can help you to love Twitter too by showing you the results regular engagement can have.”

Both might be true but the former talks about how what you do specifically helps your clients.

But I’ve not had a client yet. What can I say?

Are you doing what you used to do in your previous work? Talk about the difference your work made to your employer. You don’t have to pretend they were a client. People understand that everyone has to start their own business somewhere.

Doing something completely different from your former career?

Why not do some pro-bono work with the specific purpose of getting you a red hot testimonial? Just make sure that you agree the work in return for a testimonial and word of mouth recommendations if they’re happy (which of course, they will be) BEFORE you start the work.

PROS = if you don’t promote your business, you don’t have a business. If this is an area where you really don’t feel comfortable, ask yourself how you can get around that.

I hate making phone calls so I NEVER cold call (although it can have fantastic results, I know). I get around this by sending an email first and then a follow up call, which is far more within my comfort zone as I have a ‘hook’ to discuss.

If you’ve no social media experience – but that’s where your clients are – there are loads of resources online – free and paid – that can help you with this, so you can get started easily. Check out your local business groups to see what training they offer too.

CONS = promotional activity can take up a huge amount of time – and in the early days of your business, you will spend most of your time on this trying to win clients (or you should). Make sure you get a balance between promotions and delivering work to ensure that you can sustain the growth in your business.

TIP: in the early days, promotion will be a huge focus for your business. Once you’re up and running, make sure you schedule in an hour a day (at least) to keep your business name out there and make sure that you are consistently winning new business.

Get my free eguide Be A Client Magnet, that shows you how to successfully win more clients for your freelance business for more advice.

 

5. Resilience

You will market yourself, have a business model that you believe in, and be the best at what you do – but people will still say no.

There will be times when you think you’ve made a perfect pitch to your perfect client and you just don’t get the work.

You will have a pricing structure in place and some potential clients will try to drive your prices down (stay firm unless it’s worth it to your business to take a cut e.g. it’s a good client to add to your CV).

TIP: Remember, when people say no it’s not a reflection of you or your skills. It may be that it’s not the right time for them to consider your services. They may not be able to afford you (in which case, they’re not your ideal client anyway). They may just have brought someone in to do what you’re offering. The list goes on.

People will say no and you don’t have time to be crushed by it. Be disappointed that you’re not going to get a chance to work with them and then move on.

 

 

6. A Sense of Humour

Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a stand up comedian and make your clients laugh – but when the computer won’t connect to your WiFi, and you have 3 hours internet research to do for a client; when your client comes back with YET ANOTHER set of changes; when your youngest has used up all of your paper on her ‘art project’ – you will need a sense of humour.

Try not to let everything that goes wrong send you into a tailspin. Your stress levels will thank you for it.

Clients understand IT issues – they have them too.

Try to smile – even if you don’t feel like it – when those changes come through – it’ll change your attitude to dealing with them.

And printing stuff off on paper isn’t good for the environment anyway.

 

7. Ingenuity

All of the above of course leads me to possible, the most important skill of all:

INGENUITY

Printer broken? Send it as a PDF.

WiFi playing up? Head to the nearest library or cafe.

Kids driving you crazy and you’ve a deadline to meet? Organise a playdate with their friends (at their friends house obviously!)

Of course, if you’re also a parent, you’ll already have this skills in spades.

 

These are the skills that I’ve had to call upon during my 7 years of running a freelance business. Are there any others you would add to the list?

 

 

 

7 Resolutions to Get Your Freelance Business in Shape

productivity tips for freelancers

 

It’s fair to say that, enjoyable though the summer was, having the kids off school for 7 weeks has broken my work mojo.

Not only do I have to catch up work that I just had to park due to time constraints – but I also need to get back into the working mindset in general. I have to admit that I’m still a bit in holiday mode. Am I alone in that?

Now that the little darlings been back for a couple of weeks, and we’ve figured out timetables and after school activities (of which there seem to be more each year!) I thought the time was ripe to set myself some work resolutions to help me to get back into the flow of work, routines, and general productivity.

 

1. Batching Work – I already do a bit of batching when it comes to writing, and I find this a really productive way of working. As I’m writing posts for this blog, as well as guest posts and other client work, it’s really useful to have time dedicated to researching, drafting and then writing for all of these writing jobs at once. I find it helps me to get more done than when I plan and write them all separately.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to try batching more of my similar activities to see if that helps productivity in other areas too. I’ve blocked off time in the calendar for writing, research, promotional activities and admin – so let’s see how I get on with it. (So far, so good I have to say).

Batching tasks can improve your productivity - give it a try! Click To Tweet

 

2. Social Media Spring Clean – one of my top tips for staying ahead of the social media game is scheduling. (And you can get my free Twitter Scheduler here if you’d like a kickstart yourself).

I use Hootsuite to help me to batch and plan my social media for the coming week – you can read more detail about how I do that here – but it’s fair to say that I was running this in a very reduced way over the summer.

Now we’re at the start of the new school year, I’ve blocked off specific times in my diary every day (yes, that’s right, every day) to catch up with my social media activity* – as well as a regular hour each Friday to batch updates for the week ahead. And it feels good to finally be getting ahead rather than constantly playing catch up like I did in July and August.

* Once you have a plan in place and a system for managing your social media activity, you only need to dedicate between 10 to 30 minutes per day – more if you have time – to keep it all ticking over and your profile ‘out there’).

 

3. Drink More Water – I survive on cups of decaff tea, which is all well and good but usually means that I’m lucky if a glass of pure water actually passes my lips. The only days I seem to drink enough water are the days that I go out running, so I’ve set myself the goal of drinking a litre of water every day. (Not doing so well on this one so far – but I’ll get there).

We need to drink water to stay healthy, productive – and apparently, beautiful (it’ll take more than water for me).

I’m going to implement some of the tips here for getting more H2O each day.

productivity tips for freelancers

4. Eating Less Carbs – yep, I am also guilty of living on carbs. Toast, cereal, crisps, oatcakes. Too many carbs can lead to a bit of a post-lunch slump – which is hardly great in terms of productivity.

I should say that I’m going to cut back on the bad carbs (i.e. the ones I like the most) but still eat good carbs – like oats, vegetables, fruit and rice.

Almonds are currently perched on my desk uneaten. I will try to eat them soon though!

 

5. Get Up Earlier – I already use my spare hour in the morning to check emails, respond to any that are urgent, and check social media updates – which means that I feel confident that at least I’ve caught up on anything that’s come in overnight.

However, I read this post yesterday about getting up at 5am (yes, really) and how it can increase your productivity and just generally, improve your day .It’s inspired me to try to do the same.

I have to admit that I felt exhausted just reading it, but I figure it will give me so much more productive time when the house is relatively quiet, that it might just be worth a try. And I really do need to stop working on the Mac until midnight as research shows that it interrupts your sleep (which might explain why I feel so tired).

productivity tips for freelancers

6. Rule of 3 – I already do this to a certain extent but, over the summer and since the kids have gone back to school, I have slipped up a bit.

So, pen at the ready, Outlook calendar open, I have blocked off each day into 3 main categories: Promotion, Writing (both of which I do every day) and/or Admin, Planning, Research depending on what the priorities are.

Promotion covers a multitude of activities – from social media updates, to contacting potential clients while writing includes client work, as well as this blog. The Rule of 3 really does work – so I am determined to get back into the flow.

productivity tips for freelancers

7. Me Time! – going for a run, seeing friends and just generally chilling out were not key activities over the summer.

Ferrying the kids around, acting as referee (an increasingly common activity as the weeks went on) and arranging play dates were the main focus.

I only managed 1 run a week. I went out with my girlfriends once. And I most definitely didn’t chill out.

Taking time out and recharging the batteries is essential if you want to stay productive.

Armed with my trusty calendar, I’ve blocked off time in the diary to go out on 3 runs per week. I’ve just booked myself into adult beginners ballet (I’m not a beginner but given that the last time I donned a pair of ballet shoes I was about 15, I think it’s fair to say, I’m not going to be that good either).

And – after my hour of social media scheduling on a Friday – the rest of the morning is free for coffee with friends. My sanity will (hopefully) be restored. Not to mention, I might lose a few pounds (from the exercise NOT the coffees). Perfect timing in preparation for putting them all back on again over C… (no, it’s September, I won’t say it).

 

So that’s it. Enough to be getting on with and nothing too difficult. In fact, lots of things I should be doing anyway if I want to stay productive – and sane.

 

How are you getting back into your work flow after the summer?

 

 

How to Manage Your Money (Lessons I Learned from my 1st Job)

money management for beginners

As a 16 year old schoolgirl, I decided that £1.50 per week pocket money from my parents just wasn’t going to cut it.

So, I headed to the local ice cream shop, armed with nothing but the confidence of youth – plus some inside information that the owner paid a better hourly rate than the local supermarket.

After a brief chat with the owner, I was taken on for a trial.

I passed with flying colours. To be fair, it wasn’t too taxing.

And that was that. I was the new Saturday girl. (Technically, I was the Friday night/all day Saturday girl, but that’s not as catchy).

Over the next 3 years, I perfected gift wrapping, complete with bow ties and curled ribbons.

I flirted with the boys in the factory (hey, I was a teenager – don’t judge me!).

And I probably ate more ice cream than is deemed healthy in a balanced diet.

While my little ice cream job was a way for me to earn a bit more cash than my measly pocket money allowance had given me, looking back on it, I did learn a few financial lessons along the way that I still use today.

 

Pay Yourself First

My entire motivation for getting a job in the first place was money.

I didn’t have a deep desire to gain ‘work experience’ for my CV.

Come on. I was 16. I barely thought beyond the end of the week, never mind ‘what I was going to DO with my life’. (This may explain a great deal about my career path).

Anyway…

I didn’t have an overwhelming love of ice cream. Perhaps a slight crush but not a full blown passion (honest).

All I wanted to do was earn some cash.

When I started, I was earning the princely sum of £12.50 a week. Not much but, with no dependents or bills to pay, I managed to put £8 in savings and the rest was mine to spend.

Now, £4.50 might not be all that much, but if you remember, it was three times the amount I’d been getting in pocket money.

It was also the late ’80s, and bought a surprising amount of ear-rings, Depeche Mode CDs, clothes from Top Shop and, in the later years of my wee job, rounds of drinks in the pub.

I was rich.

Not only that, but I managed to save up enough to pay for a full set of driving lessons by the time I was 17 (and I passed first time. Woo hoo!)

I also saved up and paid for my first holiday abroad (sans parentals) when I was 18. I went with a friend, her boyfriend and my first serious boyfriend – who just happened to be one of the boys from the ice cream factory 😉

I would have had zero chance of doing either of these things without having saved up for them myself.

My folks had made it perfectly clear that they weren’t going to pay for me to learn to drive (which is fair enough) – or to go on trips to Europe with a young man. My Dad was particularly clear on the latter I seem to remember!

But it was the first time in my life that I actually felt independent and had some control over my life thanks to my own efforts.

And there’s nothing quite as liberating as knowing you’ve done it yourself.

I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet.

Susan B. Anthony

 

Profit Margins are King

Working in an ice cream shop, I discovered that there’s a 200% markup on the ice cream itself (yes, really, 200%).

I also learned that there’s very little profit in tobacco sales.

Because of this, I couldn’t understand why we bothered with cigarettes until the boss pointed out that some people only come in to the shop to buy them.

And of course, not only were the ice cream (200% mark up remember) and the chocolate counters directly in front of the tobacco shelves, but we also made them both look SO enticing that the customers just couldn’t resist something sweet to take with them.

(And quite possibly to stop their breath smelling quite so bad).

 

Despite What They Say in the Ad, Tax is Actually Quite Taxing

A Saturday job is unlikely to see you bringing home big bucks.

However, during one of the summers – possibly the one between school and university, I managed to work pretty much full time between the ice cream shop plus some additional bar work that I’d landed.

And that’s when I somehow pushed myself over the minimum tax threshold.

I went from pocketing everything I earned up to having to hand the tax man 25% of my earnings from all of the extra work that I’d taken on.

And worse, I then had to keep paying him for the rest of the year!

I’d never had to pay tax before. It wasn’t a happy moment.

 

Mental Maths

You’re probably thinking that most ice cream shop customers are kids, but you’d be wrong.

They are pensioners.

Lots of grandparents treating their grandchildren or older people just treating themselves (and why not).

This fact led me to discover 2 facts about old people.

1. They appear to have more of a craving for sweet things than the rest of the population (apart from my husband).

2. They have a skill at doing mental maths – a fact of which they are inordinately proud (and, frankly, a little bit show offy about).

On Friday evenings during the break at the neighbouring bingo hall, old men and women would square up to me across the counter,

‘So how much do you reckon 2 cones, a 99 tub, 10 B&H and a packet of bon bons cost then, love?’ they’d ask menacingly.

(Actually, it wasn’t remotely menacing, I just said that for dramatic effect. They were really quite friendly. By which I mean, they were laughing at me because they knew I needed 5 minutes and a calculator. While I’m ‘fessing up, they also said ‘hen’ instead of ‘love’ because that’s what they say in the part of Scotland that I live in, but I’m writing for an international audience here so…)

Like lightning, they’d have calculated the answer in their heads before I’d even added the first two.

I quickly learned that I’d need to be as quick off the draw as my elderly customers.

3 years and lots of practice later, I reckon I won as many of these challenges as I lost. An improvement on the total wipeout of my early days.

Despite scoffing at the lack of need for mental arithmetic when I was a teenager, it comes in very handy these days when quickly figuring out requests by the kids for treats or calculating the tip on a café bill.

And all of these financial lessons have stood me in good stead over the rest of my life.

 

I always pay myself first, and have managed to build up a nice little savings buffer with enough cash for emergencies and retirement. I’ve pretty much avoided debt too, and paid off my student loan in less than 4 years.

I always calculate my tax return MONTHS before it’s due so I know exactly how much money I can spend or save without eating into the tax man’s money.

I have short and long term savings goals for treats like holidays, and essentials like my pension.

I can quickly and confidently negotiate rates with clients, working out whether the extra hours or the discount they’ve asked for is worth me doing the job without having to resort to a calculator or putting them on hold while I figure it out.

 

Perhaps most importantly though, I learned that ice cream is not a food group. Even if you really want it to be.

The raisins in rum & raisin ice cream do NOT count as one of your five a day.

And sorbet, while extremely low fat, is in fact, full of sugar.

 

What did your first job teach you about money management that has stuck with you since then?

 

Hard Lessons I’ve Learned in 7 Years as a Freelancer

lessons for freelancers
Day 11 of 15 Days to a Successful Freelance Business – a reality check

It’s no secret that I love the freelance life and the freedom and opportunities it brings that just aren’t possible when you have a boss, and a long commute.

However, it’s not all coffee mornings, dog walks and smiles.

Sometimes it’s stressful.

Sometimes it’s lonely.

And frankly, sometimes I wonder what the hell I’ve done.

Of course, I’m here to help make your Journey to Freelance a wee bit easier, but there are hard lessons to be learned along the way, and it does no-one any favours if I don’t at least mention them.

 

1. Your Earnings Are Likely to Drop

Yep, I’m sure you’ve read loads of blog posts about people who are raking in 6 figure salaries in part-time hours that they could never have dreamed of when they were employees. But the reality for most freelancers is that your earnings are likely to drop before they start to increase.

You are probably starting from ground zero.

You may never have had to market yourself before.

And it’s quite possible that you don’t have a ready made list of clients.

Instead of every day spent working on projects and client work – like you do in your employed life – you will have to spend huge amounts of time marketing yourself and your freelance business AND doing admin. You don’t get paid for these activities.

Of course, many of us go on to enjoy good earnings on part-time or flexible hours – just don’t kid yourself that it’s going to happen from the start (although I’m sure it does for some people, I suspect they are in the minority).

It took me 3.5 years before I was back to earning anything like I used to in my previous well-paid job. This is partly because I took the decision to cut my hours – so in fact, I was earning what I used to but in less hours – but it is mainly because I underestimated how much time I would have to spend on marketing, networking and admin.

Most small businesses spend 20 hours a week on marketing & promotion Click To Tweet

 

2. You Will Work Long Hours

I had this Utopian dream in which I only worked school hours, earned a nice amount of money, and took off all of the school holidays.

Pah!

The reality is that I started out working while the kids were at school, picking them up, feeding them, ferrying them to various activities, and then working again once they were tucked up in bed until about midnight before starting the whole rollercoaster at 6am the following morning.

I have always taken off Christmas, but usually only manage a few days at half term, and Easter and – apart from this summer – I’ve only ever taken off 2 of the 7 weeks summer vacation that they have here.

Now that I’ve been freelancing for a few years now, I don’t have to put in such long hours, but I still work at least 4 evenings per week. I work 14 hour days on a Monday (because my other half is off work and so does all the child-ferrying/dog walking activities) and I usually work while the kids are doing their homework or are at their various after school activities on the other days.

 

3. You Have to Do Stuff You Don’t Like

In my old job, I didn’t have to order stationery – the administrator did that.

I didn’t have to figure out the database – we had a database manager for that.

And I never had to remember invoices or check payments, because our operations manager did all of the financials.

Fast forward to now and I have to order the stationery, change the ink in the printer, manage the budget, market & promote the business, liaise with printers/designers, manage my website – including all of the updates, issues, plugins and problems. And I have to file my annual tax return.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like the marketing and promotions side – just as well, as it takes up a huge amount of time – but invoicing and chasing those invoices. Hmm, not so much.

Until your business has got to the point where you can outsource some of these activities – and some will never be worth your while outsourcing I would say – you will have to be chief cook and bottle washer.

 

4. You Will Find Out Who Your Friends Are

Not strictly work related, but I was surprised to find so many naysayers in my life when I started my freelance consultancy business.

People who thought I was crazy giving up my highly paid ‘management’ job (I hate managing staff).

People who scoffed at my idea of writing a business blog and selling ebooks, who questioned why I used social media (as though I was some sort of saddo who needed attention from strangers rather than, you know, using it to promote my business).

People who couldn’t wait to point out job adverts for work I could be doing – instead of freelancing (as though it wasn’t a career choice in the first place).

Some of these people were good friends of mine. Or at least, so I thought.

While I’m not suggesting that I fell out with everyone who had something negative to say, I was surprised that some of these friends weren’t more supportive.

As I said in my last post, you need to surround yourself with positive people if you’re going to stay productive. So, while I haven’t had any major bust ups, there are a few people that I don’t see quite as much of these days.

 

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.
Alice Walker

 

5. The Buck Stops With You

If there are any mistakes with client work that you’ve missed because you’ve been juggling work – or because you’re human – you have to take it on the chin and face up to the fact that it was down to you.

No-one is going to chase that late invoice – you know, the big one that you really need paid because it’s nearly Christmas? – except you.

And those business cards that came back with a mistake in your email address? That’s because you forgot to proof it.

Frankly, I like the fact that the buck stops with me and that successes – as well as failures – are down to my hard work (or lack of), but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there are times when it would be nice to hand the responsibility over to someone else. But that person doesn’t exist.

 

6. It’s Lonely

I work from home and, while Murdo is here to keep me company, it’s not quite the same as having a good old natter with a work colleague over lunch. Or coffee. Or in the ladies loos (gossip related in those circumstances, of course).

I really like my own company and don’t need to be surrounded by people all of the time – in fact, I need my own company. But there are still days when it would be good to have a blether with someone to bounce off ideas or have a moan or just try to figure out a problem. Of course, you can get a business mentor or join networking groups – but sometimes you just have a need to vent about something there and then. I’ve found Murdo and the cats don’t really pay that much attention. And their advice is rubbish!

 

If any or all of the above has you questioning whether or not you want to do this freelance business thing – then good.

You will have given it serious thought and consideration (probably more than I did to begin with) and will know for sure if it’s the right life for you.

Yes, there’s tough stuff and hard lessons and crap to deal with when you run your own freelance business.

But there’s also…

Freedom to work the hours you want, to choose the work you want (probably not in the early days though) and to choose the direction you want your business to take

A determination to work hard and work long hours BECAUSE it’s your baby and you want to make it work

Passion and enthusiasm about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it

New ideas, new people and opportunities to branch out and learn more skills than ever before

Control of your own destiny – much more than you ever had as an employee

Excitement of having your own business and determining which way you want it to go

And, my personal favourite, an extra 4 or 5 hours spent with the kids EVERY DAY that I wouldn’t have had when I worked full-time hours with a 1 hour commute each way. They are, after all, only ‘on loan’ until they become adults and make their own way in the world, so I’d rather make the most of it while they still need their Mum.

 

So, have these lessons from a seasoned freelancer completely put you off – or made you more determined than ever? Or, if you freelance already, do you have any other hard lessons to add to the list?

 

UPDATE: Just read this post on Work Awesome – which sums up some of the above beautifully, and also gives 5 questions you should ask yourself BEFORE quitting your job to start your business. Great read!