Category: 15 Days Series

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…

 

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?

 

 

 

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!

How to Create the Perfect Freelance LinkedIn Profile

how to create a perfect freelance linkedin profileNow that you’ve decided to set up your own freelance business, you’re possibly thinking about your website and other social media channels, but have you remembered your LinkedIn profile?

Do you even have one? (Do you need one?)

Today, I am delighted to be restarting my 15 Days to a Successful Freelance Business series (after a wee break for the summer hols) and – inspired by the need to start promoting my business now that my main job between the hours of 8.30 – 3.00 isn’t childcare – I thought I’d start with a little post about how to create the perfect freelance LinkedIn profile to help you to stand out from the crowd and win you some work!

Taking a step back though, you might be wondering why you should even bother with LinkedIn in the first place, so here are a few stats for you to consider:

380 million people worldwide are on LinkedIn

It’s used in over 200 countries across the globe

56% of users are male while 44% are female

87% of users are 35+

 

Yeah but isn’t it more for people in the US?

Nope. 70% of LinkedIn users are outside the USA

 

But I’m already on Twitter and Facebook, do I really need to bother with LinkedIn too?

Aha, yes, here’s the biggie. I know that social media can be overwhelming and I also know that people want to keep it as simple as possible. What I’m suggesting though is that, as a freelancer, perhaps you might want to consider that LinkedIn probably isn’t the one platform to ignore.

Like I say, I’m not here to make life complicated for anyone but when you consider that 45% of people on LinkedIn are decision makers (as compared to only 25 – 29% on Twitter and Facebook) AND that the average household income for members on LinkedIn is higher than the other two social media platforms, then surely it’s worth considering? After all, it will put you on a platform where you have access to key decision makers who have greater spending power than on any other social media channel.

So, what am I saying?

If you’re running a freelance business and you want to work with medium to large scale businesses, then it may be better to invest some time on LinkedIn to begin with.

Of course, if your audience is in the 18 – 34 age range, then by all means focus your efforts elsewhere, but I’m guessing that most people reading this will want to sell their freelance services – or their small business products – to businesses or individuals who are potentially in the 35+ age group.

And if you’re providing a business to business service, then I’d say that you definitely need a LinkedIn profile.

OK, that’s the sales pitch over (not that I’m selling anything to be clear – and if you’d like more stats before making your decision, you can find more about LinkedIn here).

Now let’s get on to creating the perfect LinkedIn profile for your freelance business.

First of all, there are three things that you want from your LinkedIn profile:

1. You want it to make you easier to find

2. You want it to be eye-catching

3. You want it to tell people what you do and – more importantly – how you can help them.

All of which means, that before you even consider making it look beautiful, you want to make sure that it’s set up for people to be able to find you.

If you already have a LinkedIn profile, the first step is to check out your profile by clicking on ‘view public profile’.

Then, you want to sign out of LinkedIn completely, head on over to Google and search for yourself or your business.

Are you showing up in the searches under your LinkedIn profile (or anywhere else for that matter)?

If not, you need to enhance your profile to get yourself noticed more readily.

Your profile should communicate WHO you are, WHO you help, and HOW you help people.

 

What’s in a Headline?

Think of this as your ‘elevator pitch’. Use keywords in your headline and make it (and you) sound compelling. What you’re aiming to do here is to show that you’re an expert in your particular field.

Stuff your headline with keywords that you want to show up for. Like ‘Graphic Designer’ or ‘Freelance Writer’ – but for a really good headline, add in what you do and how you help people.

Instead of just listing your job title, think about answering this question:

You help who with what?

There’s a good article here with some examples of headlines – and you can hop on over to Laura Roeder’s how to post that shows exactly how to make those changes.

 

perfect freelance linkedin profile

Lights, camera…

Make sure you have a proper headshot on LinkedIn. This isn’t Facebook.

People don’t want to see your cat. Or a selfie.

It shouldn’t be an image cropped from a night out or of you living the party life (unless of course, that’s what your brand is all about).

Get a proper headshot done. You don’t have to go to the expense of hiring a photographer. Just make sure the lighting is good, you look good and get someone who is halfway decent with a camera to take your photo.

That’s my Mum out of the equation. We have countless family photos where the entire family is headless thanks to her camera skills. Not that any of you were thinking of asking her anyway… 😉

You could make your headshot more interesting by showing you doing your job (if it makes for an interesting picture and, of course, depending on what you do. I doubt anyone really wants to see a dentist performing an extraction!)

 

What’s Your Background?

You can also make your profile more visually appealing by changing the background. Consider creating a custom background using PicMonkey or Canva to adapt images or your logo to fit the template LinkedIn require.

Get creative and grab attention.

You can find a few more tips on creating an eye-catching LinkedIn background in this article – and it’s definitely worth considering to make your profile stand out from the crowd.

 

In a Nutshell

Next, you want to make sure that you write a good summary.

It needs to be succinct, it should communicate what you do and how you help people (that old chestnut again) and it should include plenty of keywords that you want to be found for.

So if you’re offering social media management or content creation – say it in here (as well as in your headline). If you’re not sure what to include, you can get some inspiration from others who are doing a good job of it here.

(And here’s mine)

create the perfect freelance linkedin profile

Showcase Your Best Work

My advice here would be to make sure that you don’t simply write down EVERYTHING that you’ve every worked on. Instead, you want to make sure that you showcase your best work.

List your top 5 biggest achievements that are relevant to the field that you’re working in right now. Highlight them and draw attention to the work that you are proud of and, more importantly, that you are looking to do more of.

Include any awards that you’ve won and mention any publications that you’ve been featured in or have written for.

There’s an option to include any media that you’ve produced or worked on – and it’s a great way of creating eye-catching content that you can link to.

So if you’re a graphic designer or video producer, for example, link to your work here. Or if you’ve featured in any publications, as I mentioned above, you can include links to the articles in here too.

I write for an entrepreneurship blog, and include links to the articles here as well as links to Apricot Ginger posts, so people can see the type of work that I’ve created.

There’s also a section on Membership of Professional Organisations – make sure that you fill that in too.

Only include relevant work in your work history section. Yes, LinkedIn will probably encourage you to fill out everything, but is it really relevant that you worked in a coffee shop after graduation?

 

Projects

Here you can link to any projects that you’ve worked on – so publications that you’ve written, blogs that you write for or other work that you’ve produced.

You could also consider adding in any links to any lead magnets (which is a short report that you produce in exchange for someone’s email address) under the projects section too. Try not to make it too promotional, but if you produce a giveaway that encourages people to join your list and that is relevant to the work that you do – or is a good showcase of your expertise (and if it’s not, why do you have it?) then link to it here.

I also include a link to my own lead magnet in my profile – which if you’ve missed is top right of this page – 10 Essential Steps to Launching Your Freelance Business

creating the freelance linkedin profile

Get Noticed

Now that you’ve made your profile look beautiful, you want to make yourself easier to find – which is how you are going to start to show up when you Google your name + LinkedIn in the future.

The easiest way to do this is to join groups that you’re interested in or that are relevant to your field. My advice would be to join as many as possible and then, once you’ve hung around them for a few weeks, you’ll start to get a feel for which ones you’re are most closely affiliated to (or most interested in).

Start commenting in the groups that you really like, and share any interesting links or start discussions in these groups.

DO NOT endlessly self promote.

You want to show yourself off as an expert by sharing useful content, not by boring people to death by talking about yourself all the time.

Start connecting with people in your LinkedIn groups – particularly those that you think you could partner with or who could become clients. Don’t make it too spammy though. Just send an inmail asking to connect, and say that you noticed they’re in the same group as you – or that you appreciated their comment or like about something that you posted (or that you liked one of their posts and why).

Start to view other people’s profiles that you’d like to connect with. They will notice that you’ve viewed them and may ask to connect up. Similarly, if someone views your own profile, follow up with them with a simple: ‘I notice that you’d viewed my profile, is there anything I can help with?’

You’ll notice that there’s a section on recommendations, so start to recommend your contacts and they may return the favour (or you could even ask them to). The best way to go about this is to only make recommendations where you really know that the person is an expert in this particular field – otherwise, you risk recommending someone who might not be as good as they say they are!

Use your status updates to post interesting, engaging articles that are relevant to your field. Relevancy is the key to making your LinkedIn profile as powerful as possible.

 

Get Writing

A really good way to improve your ability to be found is by getting published on LinkedIn Pulse – which is a way of sharing any content that you’ve created directly onto LinkedIn (instead of simply linking to your own website or blog).

Remember what I said about 380 million people using LinkedIn worldwide? Well, imagine those people having access to your content. Pretty powerful stuff.

It means that your content on LinkedIn is usually easier for people to come across that your own blog or website and will bring you to the attention of a greater number of people worldwide.

 

Now that you’ve made your profile look beautiful, you might want to read this article by William Arruda on 22 LinkedIn Secrets LinkedIn Won’t Tell You – which tells you how to really make the most of your activity on LinkedIn. It makes for good reading…

 

And that’s it. My top tips for creating the perfect freelance LinkedIn profile. Is there anything that you’ve found particularly useful or that has helped you to be found on LinkedIn? As ever, let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet: Managing Social Media in a Small Business

social media for small business

 

Now that you have your marketing and social media plans (and if you don’t or have missed the links, pop on over now for a catch up) I thought it might be good if I made your life slightly simpler by showing you how to manage your social media for your freelance business.

If you’re running a small business then it’s possible that you’re the only person in the business and you haven’t gotten around to – or can’t afford – employing a VA.

If the thought of having to manage social media on top of everything else has you in a panic, here are a few tried and tested tips to make it as easy as possible.

I promise you. I don’t have a VA. I am Apricot Ginger. Murdo may be ‘the Apricot one’ – and  he’s cute but not very helpful when it comes to admin.

So, the starting point to make your social media life as easy as possible is….

Drum roll please…

 

AUTOMATION

 

Yes, it’s true that the golden rule for social media is to ‘be present’ (well, it’s possibly not THE golden rule – that’s probably ‘be interesting and relevant’) but for the purposes of this post, please be clear. I am NOT advocating that you just set up everything to run automatically without ever checking in.

You MUST check in with your social media accounts at least once a day.

(As a rule of thumb, I generally check in around 2 or 3 times a day for around 10 minutes at a time).

However, the key to helping you to manage social media when you ARE the business – is to set up some automation to help you to generate a continual buzz around your social media activity.

I am literally going to go through this step by step, so if you’re a social media whizz you might just want to hop on over here to pick up and download my free Tweet Planner & Scheduler printable.

If not, just follow the steps below and you will be up and running and raring to go on your social media channels of choice in no time.

Now, you have probably figured out that I am something of a Twitter fan (here’s one reason why).

Trust me when I say that people who know me in real life are astounded that I can keep anything to 140 characters but my ability to talk at length aside, I love Twitter. So I will focus mainly on that today – although I’ll cover a bit about Pinterest and Facebook too.

In case you missed it, I recently created Free Printables page on Apricot Ginger. It’s just the start but I will be adding to it over the coming weeks. But it includes a handy Tweet Scheduler.

So, the first thing you need to do to get your Twitter on track is hop on over there now, and download your free printable (no email sign in required. Just click on the image).

Done that? OK, welcome back.

Now, the next thing you want to do is subscribe to an RSS service like Feedly or bloglovin’

If you have already – terrific. If not, I’ll wait here.

Fill up your subscriptions lists with related businesses, interesting news articles – and any other blogs that are either similar to or complimentary to, your own freelance business.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to sign up for all of your blogs in one go. Start with 10 or so and keep building on the list from there.

I use Feedly the most – although I do have a bloglovin’ account – and I have all of my subs listed under different headings like Blogging (for blogs about – you guessed it, blogging); DIY (I do love a spot of home decorating): Entrepreneurship… you get the picture.

how to manage your social media
Snapshot of my Feedly homepage

 

So, now that you have your Feedly or bloglovin’ account set up, you want to sign up to Hootsuite. All of these are free by the way, or at least have a free entry level version (and I only use the free stuff myself – it’s all good).

Sign up to Hootsuite and make sure that you add in all of the social media channels that you are on. I have Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn on mine. I post direct onto Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

how to manage your social media
My Hootsuite dashboard

 

You can automate Facebook via Hootsuite, but to be honest, you’re better doing it through Facebook’s own scheduler as it (FB) prefers that. I suspect it’s all a way of making sure we all use Facebook but, whatever the reason, if you’re posting to Facebook, I suggest that you schedule those messages direct.

OK, so you’ve now signed up to Feedly and Hootsuite and you have your trusty Tweet Scheduler in hand.

Now, you want to go through your own posts and your Feedly subscriptions and find interesting content to share.

Obviously, the Tweet Scheduler has been created with Twitter in mind, but you can also send some messages to other channels. Just make sure you’re not using Twitter handles or hashtags in those messages as it will be obvious you’re just bulk scheduling the same messages.

Set up all of your messages for the week ahead this way – or you can do more if you want – and then you have the backbone of your social media messaging for the week ahead.

Simples.

The whole thing will probably take you a while the first time that you do it. I’d give yourself a couple of hours while you fiddle about with it, but once you get in the swing of it all, this shouldn’t take more than an hour. I usually do mine at the weekend.

Now, the key to making this work is to make sure that you still check in EVERY DAY.

You will have to respond to comments or thank people for retweeting your messages. You should also be checking your new followers and deciding whether or not to follow back. (Remember, followers are about quality not quantity so don’t feel you have to follow everyone who follows you – if they’re spammy, don’t bother. And so what if they then unfollow you? They were unlikely to be clients anyway).

Repeat the same exercise for your Facebook messages for the week and you’re all set up and ready to go.

how to manage social media for a small business

TIPS:

Tell people when you share their content – so + them in Google+ shares, use their Twitter handle in tweets, let them know in blog comments that you’re sharing. It means that they will know when their content is being shared and, while it might not result in any shares of your own stuff to begin with, it will get you on their radar (so it’s a good strategy for potential clients or partners).

Check in with social media EVERY DAY. Don’t just trust to automation. I have been guilty of not practising what I preach – especially when I’ve been really busy – but if you don’t respond to people, if you never thank anyone for retweeting your content, or worse, if you are sending out messages that are now irrelevant because of real world events that have happened since you set them up to run, people will soon get fed up with you and will stop engaging. After all, how can you have a conversation with someone who is never there?

Make sure your branding is consistent across all of your platforms. The trick here is to become easily recognizable wherever you are on social media. Start off by using the same profile picture across all of your social media. While your messages can (and should) be different for each platform they should still be ‘on brand’.

Use apps to make your life easier:

Hootsuite is great for automation across a range of social media platforms

Tailwind is a fantastic app that schedules your pins on Pinterest (it’s paid but starts at a low $9.99 per month). You can also share these scheduled pins on Facebook and Twitter – although they will obviously have come from Pinterest.

Pocket is a new app (new for me at least) that you can use to save content that you come across on line to read later. I haven’t tried it out yet, but have had it recommended to me twice this week so I will be checking it out. It is one to add to the arsenal and, while not an RSS feed, sounds as though there’s potential there to gather more information to help you to add even more interesting content into your messages.

Feedly & bloglovin’ – sign up for one or both and collate all of your favorite blog RSS feeds in the one place for easy reading.

 

So those are just a few tips to help you manage your social media more easily with the limited time that you have available. What are your favorite time saving social media apps? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

 

 

How to Make Social Media Work for Your Business

how to make social media work for your business

 

Do you know how to make social media work for your business? I mean, really work?

You know by now that social media is one of the ways to bring people to your website or to promote your business, or to connect with your ‘tribe’.

But are you really sure that you’re using social media as well as you could?

Maybe you’ve tried out a few channels but they’re not working – or at least they’re not working as well as you’d hoped. What now?
Well, as with everything else related to your freelance business, it’s best to have a plan.

Start with a social media strategy

Have you already prepared a social media strategy? Here are a few tips about what to include, along with a couple of templates that will really help you to get the most out of your efforts. (We like results, right?)

Start with Objectives

What exactly do you want to achieve with social media? Maybe you want to win business (check out my post about landing a $22k client on Twitter for some inspiration)

Do you want to drive traffic to your blog or website?

how to make social media work for your freelance business
OK, not this sort of traffic…

Do you want to reach out to potential clients and show that you’re an authority in your field?

Do you want to sell products direct via social media or advertise?

Consider all of the aspects that you want to achieve with social media – from the ambitious to the downright mundane and every day.
Next up think about how your social media objectives fit in with your overall marketing objectives.

Social media ISN’T your marketing strategy, but used well, it can be a useful promotional tool for your business – so you should start to see how your social media activity fits with your overall marketing and promotions.

And make sure those objectives are SMART.

 

Carry Out an Audit

If you’re already using social media for your business, now is the time to have an audit to find out what you’re doing, where and how well (or not!).

What social media channels do you already use?

Do you know what it is that you want to achieve from each? If not, now is the time to start thinking about it.

You’ve listed out your overall objectives – use these to figure out what you want from each channel.

What is already working for you?

List out information like number of followers, likes and so on but also take a proper look at the analytics behind each.

It’s all very well having 3,000 followers on Twitter but if they’re all tweeting spammy messages, then it’s not really working for you.

So, as well as figuring out the numbers, you should be finding out whether the social media channels that you are using are driving traffic to your website. Are they generating customer enquiries and new business?

Don’t get obsessed by numbers. Large numbers do not indicate success. Engagement indicates success.
Quality over quantity on social media. It's not about how many followers you have! Click To Tweet

So, for example, if people are regularly repinning and commenting on your pins – and if you can see that they drive traffic to your website or that you are starting to sell direct from Pinterest as a result, then that would indicate that it’s working for you.

Try to be objective.

Just because you love Twitter, if it’s not where your customers are – or if it’s not working for some other reason, then accept that it’s not working.

If it’s fixable – like you’re posting at the wrong times or your being too self promotional – then fix it.

But if it’s a case of your customers or clients not using it, then you’re wasting your time and you need to move on.

Mistakes are the portals of discovery: James Joyce Click To Tweet

Which channels do you regularly update and which do you tend to ignore? Start to have a think about why that is. Perhaps it’s down to personal rather than business reasons.

I don’t have a particular affinity for LinkedIn – which is crazy, as one of the main aspects of my business is freelance writing and there are lots of jobs in this field advertising there.

Oh yes, and I’m a consultant too, and LinkedIn is a fabulous place to find work, partners and share information with peers.

So I have to motivate myself to get on there – and I certainly don’t love it – but I am becoming more adept at using it. I’m still at the ‘forcing myself’ stage but I’m looking forward to it becoming the ‘second nature’ stage soon!

This is a classic example of personal reasons dictating my lack of use rather than business reasons. So be objective about what you’re using and why – and make decisions according to what’s best for your business.

 

Create & Improve

Now that you’ve decided what your objectives are, you will have a much better idea of where you should be.

For example, if you decided that you want to run a video series or a series of podcasts, then maybe you’ve decided to focus on YouTube or iTunes. Or your business model might lend itself well to Pinterest or Instagram.

(Not sure? Here are a few tips from Social Media Examiner to determine whether or not Pinterest is a good platform for your business).

No matter where you’ve decided to focus, now is the time to start to either create or improve upon existing social media profiles.

What to Consider

Make sure all of your profile information is all filled out. Pinterest profiles with the pin are a big no no.

how to use social mediaMake sure your profile images are ‘on brand’ and that you are consistent across all the channels that you are using.
how to use social media
how to use social media
… look familiar?

If you need more inspiration, check out Simply Zesty’s 50 best brand Twitter profiles.

Put yourself in your users shoes. If you’re focusing on 2 or 3 different channels (and I’d recommend when you’re starting out just to stick to a maximum of 3) then ask yourself:

Is it obvious that this is the same brand across all 3 channels?

Are you instantly recognizable to my potential customers and clients?

There are people that I follow on Pinterest and Twitter – and I always know that it’s their images or tweets thanks to their branding which is consistent. Same font, certain image style…

Ask yourself whether or not all of your messages ‘on brand’ while still being consistent with what works on each different social media channel?

So, for example, are you posting LinkedIn updates that are full of Twitter handles and hashtags? If you are, then you need to consider making your LinkedIn posts more in line with what you’d expect to see on that platform, while still echoing the main messages of your brand.

 

Develop a Content Strategy

So, you’ve chosen your ideal platforms, you have some beautiful looking profiles – yes, you are looking very swanky – AND you know what you want to get from each of them.

You’re ready to go!

Well, not quite. First of all, you need to figure out what you’re going to say on each of them.

Looking at your marketing strategy, do you have any particular products or projects that you want to promote at specific times of the year? Or are there key themes that you want to cover at specific times?

Link your content – be that images, videos, posts, tweets or status updates – to these themes or specific promotions and start to consider what content you will be producing. And when.

I mainly focus on my blog – and then Twitter and Pinterest from there.

Consider the different types of content that you will be creation e.g. videos for YouTube or on Facebook; photos; blog posts; links to authority pieces by other writers and bloggers etc.

Determine which type of content you will be posting on each platform.

Figure out the timing and regularity of your content.

If you’re running a business and you want to have a blog on your website, then you should blog around once a week. Unless of course, your blog IS your business, in which case you should be posting more frequently.

How often are you going to promote your content – and where are you going to promote your content?

Depending on how much time you are going to spend on this, you might want to create editorial and social media calendars for all of this.

I use Trello to plan out all of this – otherwise, I’ll be honest, it ends up on pieces of paper which go missing!

I have blog posts planned out for key times of the year – such as Christmas or tax year end – as well as specific promotions (such as this post, which is part 8 of my Twitter #15DaystoFreelance series).

It doesn’t have to be massively complicated. You can literally write out a month’s worth of blog post titles – and that can be your editorial calendar.

However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to have all of this written down, check out this free blog planner and these free social media planning templates.

 

What Are You Measuring?

Now that you are ahead of the game and have all of your platforms, profiles and content sorted out, you need to figure out what success will look like for you – and start to measure it.

HINT: your SMART objectives will help you to figure out what success will look like – now you just need to know how to measure it.

Use analytics to determine how successful each platform has been.

I don’t profess to being a social media expert – I have learned by trial and error as well as a few YouTube videos and Googling when I get stuck!

Make sure your website has Google Analytics installed – and that you know what you’re looking to measure (check out this great post which literally changed my life by making Google Analytics SOOO much easier to understand).

Pinterest has it’s own analytics too – and if you sign up to schedulers like Hootsuite or Tailwind they have inbuilt analytics that help you to discover which of your content is shared, what your popular posts are, where your customers/potential customers are – and so on.

(I will be doing an entire post on automating to organize your social media so look out for that too).
So that’s it. How to make social media work for your freelance business. It sounds daunting but it really doesn’t have to be and, by starting with just a couple of different social media platforms, and doing the initial research on the best ones for you upfront, you will make life MUCH easier in the long run.

Please share this with anyone starting or running their own freelance business. And if you have any tips or questions about creating a social media strategy then please leave them in the comments.

And please follow me on social media too – see the buttons on the right under the About info. Click on them and follow me…

 

Developing a marketing plan for your freelance business

 develop a freelance marketing plan

 

There are so many aspects to consider when starting a business that it’s easy to dive straight in with no real plan of where you’re headed. Developing a freelance marketing plan will help you to win – and keep on winning – business.

 

Marketing is a contest for people’s attention Seth Godin

 

When I started out, I decided to focus on word of mouth business. That was great to begin with (and it still remains my main source of income) but when the work started to dry up, I was hit with the harsh reality that I had no plan B.

If you’ve been through the first 6 parts of 15 Days to Running a Successful Freelance Business (#15DaystoFreelance) then you already have a lovely shiny business plan, along with some concrete ideas about saving money, getting organized and setting up your website.

Today, we’re going to plunge straight into marketing – because without it, you’re unlikely to have much of a business a few months down the line.

 

The 4 Ps

Looking at the nuts and bolts of marketing (and trawling the very distant memory of my Economics degree!) there are 4 pillars to a marketing plan.

developing a freelance marketing plan
What product or service will you be selling?

Product

The first is Product – which also includes services (confusingly). So, what is the main offer that you have? Focus on the top 3 or 4. So, if you have a consultancy style business, for example, perhaps your top 3 or 4 products and services are:

Strategic Planning

Consultancy Services

Leadership Training for Managers

An ebook you’ve developed on the 5 Aspects of all Great Business Strategies (or something along those lines)

 

If you’re a graphic designer, you might offer:

Business Logos, cards and letterheads

Promotional Banners

Promotional literature, brochures etc.

Now, I’m not going to delve too deeply into your niche market but, as part of the business planning exercise we did a couple of weeks ago (I say ‘we’, I mean ‘you’) you will already have an idea of how you will target each of your services or products to your specific market. So you might offer Leadership Training for Financial Services Managers or Strategic Planning for Non-Profits.

Next, you want to consider the price that you will charge for each of these products or services. This is where you need to arm yourself with a calculator and figure out your pricing strategy for each of your products and services (if you haven’t already done this).

Take into consideration aspects like:

How long it will take for you to deliver each product/service

Any additional resources required – will you charge for travel separately for example, if you deliver client training in their premises, or will it be an integral part of your price?

What quantities you think you will sell. If you have an ebook, you might be hoping to sell 100s if not 1000s of copies – although you only have to write it once – so that means you can charge less than you would for a face to face consultancy session.

How much will it cost to market? You might run Facebook promotions, or take out expensive adverts depending on what you’re offering. Or you might join a networking group. Take into account all of your marketing spend to determine the price.

Don’t forget to consider your hourly rate – check out the calculator again if you missed it. How many hours of you will each service need? That might be all you need to know to determine your price.

develop a freelance marketing plan
Where will you be selling your product or service?

 

Place

How and where will you sell your product or service? Will it be online or offline – or a combination of the two? You might set up a shop – although that’s not a very freelance model – but you could sell your cupcakes at a pop-up shop or a market stall – or even in your current workplace – as long as it’s not a bakery 😉

 

Promotion

OK, this is the fun part. What strategies will you use to get your products and services to market? There are a few to choose from:

Word of Mouth & Referrals
As I said above, this was initially my main focus to promote my consultancy – and it still remains one of my most successful ways of finding new business. Spread the word among your friends, family and colleagues (or former colleagues) about your new venture. Don’t forget that even people who don’t seem to be related to your business could refer you on to others. I might have mentioned it before, but I won a $8,000 contract thanks to a chat with a Mum in the playground who turned out to be looking for exactly what I do!

Website

I covered how to set up your website in my previous post. Your website is a good starting point to promote your freelance business. If you add a blog, not only will this help the search engines to find you, but you’ll also be able to showcase your expertise by writing about the very products and services that your freelance business provides.

So, when someone searches for a de-cluttering expert and finds your blog packed full of tips and advice on how to make your home or office more streamlined, along with a competitor who has nothing more than a brochure style website, who do you think they would be more likely to choose?

A blog is also your chance to write in your own voice and it can help you to build some of that ‘know, like and trust’ between you and your potential customers that makes it even more likely they will buy from you.

As well as a blog, you can also use your About page to showcase your talents and even put up a Hire Me page to tell potential clients why they should work with you. Check out mine for some ideas – and take a look around the web for inspiration.

Network

I plan to write an entire post about networking as I know that you either love it or loathe it. Most seem to be in the loathe camp. But networking really doesn’t have to be ‘icky’. Just by following a few basic rules, you can network like a demon (in a good way) and make fantastic connections for your business:

Listen more than you talk (you have 1 mouth but 2 ears for a reason – use them in that proportion)

Ask questions – show that you’re interested in the people you’re talking to but balance your questions with chat too or they’ll feel like they’re being interrogated

Think about how you can add value NOT about selling yourself

Work for Free

If you’re just starting out and have no clients to refer you yet, you might consider doing work for free. One word of caution. Be very careful about how much of yourself you give away for nothing – but if it’s relatively small project that will showcase your work, or help you to get in front of the right people then go for it. Just know that there is a time for freebies and a time to start charging. Don’t go on offering free work for too long – and make sure any free work you do is small and easy to manage – because you never know when that paid work will roll in and you really don’t want to have all of your time accounted by pro bono work.

Social media

Yes, it can suck time like… a big thing that sucks time (sorry). But if you are focused, you can use social media to promote your freelance business effectively and cheaply (or indeed for free!).

My advice would be to choose 1 or 2 different social media platforms that you like and that you think would work best for you.

LinkedIn is good for putting you in touch with potential clients – particularly if you work B2B. One of the best ways to make connections is to join or start discussions in groups and then connect with people from the group. You can then send InMails (if you get the Pro version) as a ‘warmer’ type of email contact.

I’ve also had success on Twitter (I once won a $20,000 contract via Twitter – yes, I will write a post about it!). Try to connect with your ideal clients or people that you would really like to work with and post interesting messages and informative links to gain their attention.

Focus on getting really good at the 2 you are most comfortable with and make connections with people that will be the most likely clients and partners for your business.

If time is really tight, you only need to spend 10 – 20 minutes a day (although 30 would be better) on social media – and of course, you can automate to a certain degree – don’t go mad – to help you manage your time even better.

Emailing

Sending email marketing emails can be another way of landing clients. Again, this doesn’t have to be ‘salesy’ – you should be thinking, ‘what are they looking for help with and how can I bring value to that?’

When emailing, it’s best if you can get an introduction from someone that they know and open your email with that – to keep them reading past the first line. If you really don’t have a contact at that company, one way around this that I heard recently was to phone the sales person, tell them what you do and then ask for the name of the best person to help with this.

Sales people generally help out with these types of calls as they are exactly the type of calls they make themselves every day. Then, you either use the sales person’s name in your email to the contact they’ve identified for you, or better still, ask them if they could put you in touch.

Make sure that you research the company first – so you know something about their needs AND so you can use the language and tone in your email that matches that of the company. It’s surprisingly effective, but it works.

If you also end your email on a call to action your potential client will know what to expect. At this state, you should try to make it an action for you rather than them.

Phone Calls

Cold calling, like networking, is one of those things that you either like or you hate. I’ll be upfront on this and say that I definitely fall into the latter, so I’m not even going to pretend that I’m good at this.

However, cold calling can be surprisingly effective and if you decide to blitz 100s of potential clients with calls, then you are guaranteed to get some positive results.

If you really don’t fancy the idea of a completely cold approach, you can always try connecting with people on social media first to give you a nice opener to your conversation with them.

And of course, you could follow up with those people that you met at networking events with a call rather than an email. Again, you have a ready made opener for your call. ‘Good to meet you last week…’

Partnerships

I regularly work with other freelancers who offer complimentary services to my own: a marketing strategist, a researcher and a cultural business advisor. Together, we are able to work as a team offering the full range of services. It also has the added value that we refer work on to each other too.

 

Now choose up to 3 of the above promotional activities to sell your products and services. I’d recommend that you focus on the 3 that you’re most comfortable with, and concentrate on them for the next 3 months. Then, every quarter, assess what has worked, and what hasn’t, what you need to change and what you should spend more of your time doing.

Choose 3 promotional activities & focus on them for 3 months to help build business Click To Tweet

So that’s it. Developing a freelance marketing plan 101. How do you find and win new business? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments below – and of course, share this with anyone who is starting or running their own freelance business.

 

 

How to set up a website for your freelance business

freelancewebsiteFB

Before explaining how to set up your website, it’s probably more useful for me to start with why you should have one in the first place.

The reality is that, if you don’t have a website, you have less chances of being found by your customers and clients.

And less chance of being found means there’s less chance of making any money.

After all, the first action that most of us take when we are looking for a specific product or service is to Google it.

Put simply, if you don’t have a website, your potential customers will find your competitors who are online.

Not to mention that having a website means that you will be able to use social media more effectively as part of your entire marketing strategy. All helping to bring more people to your freelance business.

So, how do you go about setting up your website?
get a domain name

Get a Domain Name

The first step is to get a domain name.

I’ve written about choosing your business name before – and you can read about that here. Of course, your domain name doesn’t have to be your business name, as long as it’s relevant.

For example, it can be what you do, like UK homestore B&Q, which has the domain name diy.com

It’s not their business name but it is a perfect description of what the store is about.

Once you’ve thought of the domain name that you would like, you will need to check whether it’s available.

I recommend domain registrars HostGator or HostPapa as I’ve used them both and they have reasonable costs and good customer support.

Ideally, you want a domain extension of .com which is by far the domain that the search engines ‘love’ AND it makes sense to buy the domain for the country that you live in. I’m in the UK so that’s .co.uk

You only use one of these, but if you have them both it stops anyone else from being able to buy them in the future – and potentially benefit from some of your traffic.

Build Your Site

You really have three options when building your website:

1. DIY – unless you’re a tech wizard or a freelance web designer, it’s probably best to avoid this route. Of course, if you are a freelance web designer then you probably HAVE to build your own as it’s the perfect showcase for your business.

2. Hire a web designer – not a bad idea, but if you’re starting a freelance business on a low cost set up, this might not be possible.

3. Use WordPress – OK, you can actually use any template builder. Many of the domain registrars offer them – but my personal recommendation would be WordPress. I use it for all 3 of my blogs and websites.

Why WordPress?

A quick round up of the reasons to use WordPress:

  • It’s free – but good quality
  • There are lots of templates to choose from – so you can tailor it to look like your brand relatively easily
  • It has great functionality – which can be increased by the use of plugins (link in here to explanation of what they are)
  • It’s user friendly – you don’t need any IT or programming knowledge – although of course, if you have it, that would help
  • There are lots of online forums and tutorials to help you with any aspect that you are stuck with.

 

WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

There are 2 versions of WordPress to choose from – something that I didn’t realize when I first started blogging in 2010.

The .com version is entirely free – so it’s a great starting point for any bootstrapping freelance business. However, it is entirely hosted by WordPress so there’s no access to the database – you don’t really ‘own’ your site and potentially, it could be shut down at any time.

The .org version is self-hosted. So while WordPress itself is still free, you will need to purchase a hosting package to store your site database on your hosting provider’s server (more of which later).

Using the.org version means that you have control over your site and gives you access to the database via your hosting provider. You can sell direct from your .org site via a plugin, you can add advertising to generate revenue (see the advert on the right – that’s from Google Adsense) and you can set up email sign ups to build your list and your audience (you can join mine by signing up on the right or clicking here). LINK TO PAGE. So, in other words, with the .org version, you can do a lot more with your site.

The choice of which you use is entirely yours, and it depends on what you want to do with your website in the longer term.

If you go for the .org option, once you’ve selected your domain name and hosting provider, you simply go into your cpanel and upload WordPress – and hey presto! You have a website all ready for you to start adding your content to.

build website traffic

 

To blog or not to blog

The above WordPress recommendation is assuming that you are going to run a blog from your site – you might decide not to of course.

However, before you think, ‘well I don’t want a blog’ it is possible to run a static site on WordPress without the need for a blog.

Yes, there are other options but, given that I would recommend a blog in the longer term for your business, if you start off on WordPress you will have the option to add a blog to your site easily in the future.

Adding a blog helps to build traffic to your website as it means that you can create a buzz around your brand, get people talking about you and linking to your site.

Inbound links are yet another fantastic way to earn search engine love so guess what? Yes, you guessed it, you get more traffic and become easier to find. Not to mention that the search engines love regularly updated websites. So when you update your site by adding a blog post, it makes you easier to find again.

Blogging also gives you the opportunity to share news and updates about your business – or give customers and clients a behind the scenes view to help increase engagement and customer loyalty. It also helps people to learn more about you building more of that know, like, trust feeling that you want to build your audience.

Many people don’t consider the idea of running a blog because they think it will be too much work. However, unless your blog IS your business (as it is on Apricot Ginger) you only really need to post about once a week at the very most.

Choosing a hosting package

As I mentioned above, domain registrars such as HostPapa and HostGator also offer domain hosting and email hosting packages – so if you do your homework upfront – deciding on:

  • what you want to do with your website
  • what your domain name will be
  • what your budget is for hosting

You can purchase your domain and hosting package from the same provider. You don’t need to do this, but it just might make life slightly more straight forward.

When deciding upon your host, consider the following:

How much space will you need? YOu might have a big fat zero people visiting your site at the moment, but what are your future plans for the site? Is there potential for it to receive 1m visitors? Choose a host that can cope with your current AND future needs.

As a guide, for a 10 – 15 page static site, you’re going to need around 20Mb of space and, as most providers start at 100Mb, that should be plenty. But, as I said, think about future growth too.

Database access – if you’re going to run a WordPress site – and you may decide not to – but if you are, you will need to be able to access the database. Does the hosting provider you’re considering offer this service?

User friendly – how IT literate are you? If the answer is ‘not very’ (as in my case) then you want a provider that is easy to use and offers great customer support. My experience with HostGator, HostPapa and GoDaddy is that they all offer good support for someone with very basic IT knowledge.

Cost – finally, once you’ve considered everything that you need, you’ll want to look at cost and what you will be getting.

Figure out your business plan & marketing strategy BEFORE you launch your website Click To Tweet

What to consider BEFORE setting up your website

Before you do any of the above, you want to have figured out your business plan AND your marketing strategy for your freelance business. That way, you will make sure that your website delivers exactly what you need.

What are you selling?

Who is your niche market and how will you target customers?

What solution are you offering your customers?

Who are your competitors? What are their weaknesses that you could capitalize on?

Consider your marketing

Set up Google Analytics – so you can determine whether your marketing is working and driving people to your site.

Consider what social media channels you’re going to use and how

Look at the potential for affiliate marketing for your products and services or selling through third party platforms, such as Etsy or Not on the High Street (if you’re a craft type business).

Once you’ve considered all of these aspects, you’ll know what kind of site will be best for you.

 The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.

Bill Gates

 

It really is that easy to set up your website. I know because I’ve done it 3 times now and I really have absolutely NO tech knowledge whatsoever. What are your tips for setting up your website? Or do you have any hosting package recommendations – or questions? Let me know in the comments below!

 

And please share with anyone you know who is at the start of their freelance journey and might like a helping hand from the blog.