Category: 15 Days Series

How to save enough money to quit your job

how to save enough money to quit your job

 

So far in the 15 Days to Running a Successful Freelance Business series, I’ve talked about the mechanics of setting up and running your business, but in Part 5, it’s time to take a step back. I know you are reading this thinking ‘I can’t wait to get started’. You may spend most of your time at work dreaming about it, but there is usually one question that is holding you back.

“How do I save enough money to quit my job?”

I’ve written about this before, which you can find here, but today I want to go into more detail.

 

Create a budget

Go through your last 3 months worth of bank statements and look at what you have been spending your hard earned money on.

If you only bank online, you should print each month’s statement off. Otherwise, grab your paper statements, a cup of coffee (in fact, let’s be honest here, just put a pot on the stove for this) and go through every last item in your statements.

Once you have them in front of you, organize them under the following headings:

Fixed Costs – which will be all your utility bills, rental/mortgage costs, insurances, and any fixed consumer debt costs, like car repayments or credit card minimum payments.

Variable Costs – all of your groceries, fuel, clothes/haircuts/entertainment/eating out – basically all of your bills that change each month depending on what you have on or how you’ve been living.

Savings – everything that you are currently putting towards long term savings – so this might be a Christmas savings account, your pension (if it doesn’t come direct off your salary), any investments that you make – no matter how small.

Income – your salary, any interest payments you’re making, any benefits that you earn or income from investments such as stocks or property.

So now you know exactly how much is coming in versus how much is going out. You might even have a cute spreadsheet that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 15.13.58

And if you’d like a cute spreadsheet that looks like this, just click here to download the template.

Now comes the fun part.

Go through every single expenditure item and ask yourself – can I cut this item completely or pay less for it?

Be ruthless – preferably without making your life totally miserable – and always keep your end goal in mind. You are doing this for a freelance life remember.

If you haven’t shopped around for utilities for a while, you might be surprised at how much you can save just by making a few calls.

Can you cook more at home and eat out less?

Can you change your shopping habits? Maybe shop at a lower cost store (we swapped Tesco for Aldi) or, if that’s not practical where you live, can you downgrade your brands? If you really don’t want to switch from premium to cheapest, just making the move from premium to the next priced brand will make a difference.

Save on fuel by figuring out which garage near you or on your route to work is cheapest. If they’re a 20 mile round trip in the opposite direction though, it might not be worth the saving unless it is much cheaper than anyone else. Drive at 60 – 65 miles per hour max, don’t use the car for short trips and take the bus where you can.

Do you really need someone to clean your windows once a month or could you do it yourself?

I always thought that I was pretty good with our finances, but after going through our monthly statements, switching a few suppliers and changing our shopping habits, I managed to save us around $270 per month from our bills just by tightening up on our outgoings. That’s over $3,000 per year.

 

Create a Savings Habit

Cutting costs is one part of the equation. You will also need to either start or boost your savings.

If you’re saving to quit your job, ideally, you should aim for having a minimum of 6 months expenses put aside before you hand in that resignation letter. That is, 6 times the amount that you have just identified as your essential costs when you went through the above exercise.

The idea is not to have 6 months of your current salary put aside, but to have enough money to cover your essential bills for the first 6 months of your freelance business life.

Why 6 months?

Well, you can save more if you’d prefer, but as a bare minimum, you are likely to spend more of your first 6 months in business trying to drum up clients and market yourself than earning money. You might, of course, be lucky and have clients lining up from day one, but it’s easier to save yourself a whole lot of stress and have that money in the bank from the start.

If you struggle to find any money to put into savings, the simple trick that you’ve no doubt heard is to pay yourself first. Make sure that you set up a direct debit from your current account straight into your savings account on the day that you get paid – or as close to it as possible – each month. Then, that money is gone and you won’t have a chance to fritter it away on Starbucks.

How much should I save?

Well, you will have an idea of how much 6 months expenses is, and you should have a clear idea of how much you can afford to put aside each month. In an ideal world, you should aim to save 10% of your salary each month, but if that’s not going to be possible, try to save as much as you can afford after making sure the essentials are covered.

Of course, you might decide that you want to have left your job by a certain time – maybe 9 months from now. If that’s the case, figure out how much money you need to save each month for the next 9 months that will give you enough living expenses to see you through your first 6 months of self-employment.

 

Pay off your debt

I deliberately left this after starting a savings habit, because personally, I find it easier to get motivated to pay off debt if I’m also saving at the same time. This is is entirely up to you though.

If you can afford to save 10% of your salary each month, and have debt too, it might be better to pay 5% towards your debt and 5% towards your nest egg. It really depends on the numbers you’re facing.

If you have credit cards on high interest rates, shop around to try to find a 0% card if possible. That means your payments will be paying off as much of your debt as possible rather than just clearing off the interest each month.

Put your debt in order of priority – if you have a credit card, a store card and car repayments, for example, figure out which is costing you the most. Concentrate on paying that off first, while making the minimum repayments on the others. Then once that’s clear, shift to the next most expensive debt and so on…

I haven’t included your mortgage here but of course, if you decide that you want to pay it off before going freelance, you could add this into your debt priority payments. Even if you can’t clear the balance completely, it might be worth making overpayments (if your bank allows it) to reduce the amount you owe the bank before you quit your job.

 

Diversify your income

Is it possible to start your side hustle while you’re still working? Can you start to offer your freelance services part-time? This has the duel benefit of giving you small amounts of earnings, while at the same time helping you to build a client base. As you’re already earning your salary, you can use any money earned from your side hustle to pay off more of your debt or to boost your savings.

 

Get some cheerleaders

Try to surround yourself with people who are supportive of what you are aiming to do. We all have friends who like us to go out and celebrate with them all the time – and of course, I’m not suggesting that you become a hermit – but those friends who are constantly planning expensive nights out and making you feel bad about not joining them, perhaps don’t have your best interests at heart. After all, if they’re real friends, they’ll want you to live your dream life, won’t they?

 

OK, so you’ve trimmed your budget, kicked off your savings habit, are paying down your debt AND you might even have a little bit of extra income coming in – all with your best cheerleaders supporting you all the way. You are getting closer to your freelance life now. Exciting isn’t it? Remember the end goal when you are tempted by that pair of shoes or you fancy blowing the budget to help you to stay focused. You can always reward yourself when your first freelance gig pays up.

 

15 Places to Make Savings

Stuck for ideas of how to save money? Here are a few that I’ve tried and tested myself and that work for the family Apricot Ginger.

Go to see movies outside peak times – and take your own snacks with you. Popcorn from the supermarket is far cheaper than paying cinema prices

Invite friends around for dinner instead of going out for a meal – and if you really want to save, you could even invite them around for a pot luck supper where everyone brings their own dish

Join a car club – I did this and it meant we could sell our second car. Some extra money in the bank PLUS money saved on road tax and insurance. And I only use the car when I really need it

Sell stuff you don’t need – get on Gumtree or ebay to sell what you don’t need or want anymore. Gumtree is great for local sales if you’ve bulky items that you don’t want to or can’t post, while ebay is good for pretty much anything

Get stuff on Freecycle – sign up to your local Freecycle site and get things that you need for free. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure and all that. You’ll be surprised what some people are getting rid of

Use charity shops – if you need to restock your wardrobe – or the kids wardrobe – check out your local charity shop. Even better, head to a charity shop in a wealthy part of town – I know someone who picked up a genuine Mulberry handbag for $45 in one!

Swap with friends – maybe you need a babysitter while your neighbour could do with a catsitter in a few weeks time. Instead of both of you paying for these services, you could do a trade

Host a ‘swishing’ party – if you fancy a wardrobe revamp and have lots of quality items of your own that you no longer wear, you could invite your friends round for a swishing party – where they bring their best clothes that they don’t want anymore – and you swap. Invite a crowd of friends, ask them to bring some wine along too, and hey presto, instant party with your girlfriends while you choose new outfits together – and they tell you what suits you too!

Meal plan – decide what you’re going to cook for the week, fortnight or even month if you’re really organized – and never have to rely on a last minute take-away or expensive ready meal again

Shop with a list – if you’re meal planning, this comes as second nature, but don’t go to the supermarket without a list. Make sure you know what you’re going for and only buy what’s on the list

Don’t shop when you’re hungry – you’ll buy stuff you really want to eat there and then

Don’t shop with the kids – they either put things in the basket when you’re not looking or they persuade you that they will eat fruit if you buy that expensive tropical stuff that is 5 times the cost of your normal fruit and veg

Shop in season and use local shops – small shops often have the reputation of being more expensive than supermarkets, but my local fruit and veg shop can often be much cheaper than the supermarket, especially if I’m buying produce that’s in season

Cook from scratch and freeze for later – cooking from scratch is far cheaper and healthier than buying ready meals, which are often expensive and usually packed full of salt, sugar and additives

Train outdoors – quit your gym membership and go for a run, get out on your bike or, if you’re really brave, go wild swimming!

 

So those are my tips on how to save enough money to quit your job. Please let me know if there are any others that you have and share this post with someone you think might like to read it…

Choosing the perfect name for your business

how to choose the perfect name for your business

 

Deciding on a name for your business is often a major sticking point for lots of freelancers and new business startups, mainly because this is often the first aspect of your business that people come across. But choosing the perfect name for your business doesn’t have to be all that complicated. In fact, it can be fun.

(This is Part 4 of my ’15 Days to Running Your Successful Freelance Business’ series – if you missed the last one, you can find it here).

I’ll be upfront and say that I personally agonized over what to call my first consultancy business for a few weeks before deciding on a final name.

And, to be perfectly honest, when I decided on the name of this blog, I didn’t follow many of the tips below. I chose it because I liked it, and because it could be adaptable, as I hadn’t really decided on my blogging niche.

TIP: decide on your niche before you name your business 😉


OK, so let’s imagine that you’re sitting with a blank piece of paper in front of you. How do you go about choosing that name for your freelance business that you love?

Ideally, you want to start with as long a list as possible – so get creative and think through every possible angle.

 

Does your name have a meaning?

The name of your business is an important marketing tool. It’s the first aspect that people will come across and you will use it in all of your literature: from your website, to your Twitter handle and your Pinterest name. In fact, pretty much all of your social media.

Avoid names that are too vague. To do this think about the key focus of your business. Often a name can come from this. Or you could name your business after you, which many consultancies or designers decide to do, as it helps to associate the business with them personally.

My consultancy business is called Activate Fundraising – because the core aim of my business is to help ambitious non-profits to activate their fundraising programmes.

But the reality is that most people don’t say that they’re working with Activate Fundraising, they say they’re working with Heather Stewart. And when I get referrals they are for me personally by name, rather than for Activate Fundraising. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t done me any harm, but it does go to show that I needn’t have spent all that time coming up with a name that illustrates my core business.

 

Is it unique?

For anyone who will be officially registering their company, you will need to use a business name that hasn’t been used before. However, while there’s no legal requirement if you’re running a freelance business and operating as a sole trader, it still pays to have a unique business name that no-one else uses. For a start, it means that you’ll be easier to find in Google searches, and crucially means that you will find it easier to register a domain name.

Even if you don’t have a website to start with, it makes sense to have a domain name ready to go and at the very least, you should have an email address that reflects the name of your business – and definitely NOT one that ends @gmail.com

 

Can you spell it?

Try to avoid unusual spellings. Most people will Google your business to find you and if you have a remotely quirky spelling, you will be more difficult to find. You also don’t want to have the business name that no-one gets quite right because they can’t figure out how to spell it – or that you have to spell out at least 3 times before anyone gets it right.

 

Is it easy to pronounce?

Related to spelling, it helps if you don’t come up with names that are difficult to say. By far the best method of referral is word-of-mouth – and if your name is difficult to pronounce, you’ve just put a big old stumbling block right in your own path.

Choose a name that is easy to understand and repeat. For this reason, shorter names are usually easier for people to remember.

 

Does it work in print?

Your name is most likely to be passed on through your website, business cards and on letterheads. How does it look written down? Try out different fonts and styles. Play around with it and doodle it out on a notepad. Sounds daft? Maybe, but the more you try it out in writing – or even say it aloud – the more you will get a sense of whether it works or not.

 

Can you live with it?

You want your business name to be one that will still work when you are THE leading designer in your town. Or when your business is 15 years old. If it’s too up-to-the-minute, will it have lost all meaning by 2020? Or will it be embarrassing when you are older and wiser? You want a name that you can live with and that will grow with your business.

 

Making sure it’s perfect

At this point, you should have whittled down your long list to around 2 or 3 names.

1. Search it

Make sure that it’s unique, but also that the domain name is available for each of your preferred names. This will help you to narrow down the list further as you are likely to discover that some of your top 3 aren’t available. Ideally, you want a .com or the domain for your country. If these aren’t available, try the other names on your shortlist rather than going for an alternative, such as .net or .org

2. Test it

Ask potential customers what they think of your name. You could try it out in forums in your niche, ask people on Twitter (provided they are in your key customer group) or even send out a survey.

If this is a totally new business – and you don’t have any customers yet, there are ways of testing out your name for free by setting up a few LeadPages landing pages with each of your different names. There’s a great walk-through from StartUpBros on how to go about this here if you’re interested in going down this route. Whatever you do to test your name, my advice is DON’T try it on family and friends. They’re too close to you and are unlikely to fit your ideal client profile.

3. Go with your instinct

If you still have a list of 2 or 3 names after this exercise, go with the one that you think will best fit your business. Which name do you love? It’s your business after all and you need to be happy to shout the name from the rooftops.

Trying to think of a name for your business? Here are a few tips... Click To Tweet

 

So those are some of my tips on what to name your business. Do you have any other tips that you’d like to share – or perhaps you’re struggling with a name and would like to test it out. Leave a comment below to let us know.

How to find your ideal client – and why you need to

how to find your ideal client

Welcome to Part 3 of 15 Days to Running a Successful Freelance Business. Today we’re dealing with how to find your ideal client.

I touched on this is the last post on writing your freelance business plan – which you can read here.

Knowing your ideal client is the key to business success. It will help you to figure out how to reach them. How to target your products and services for them. And, it will help you to figure out the sort of client you want to avoid.

What you are aiming to do here is to take the general attributes of your key clients and use them to create a detailed profile of an individual who represents that ideal client group.


What is an ideal client anyway?

Before you even start, you need to know what an ideal client is – and essentially, they should have the following attributes:

Be someone who wants your product or service

In a position to buy what you’re offering

Be someone that you WANT to work with (this is sooo important I could dedicate an entire blog post to why you don’t want to work with a nightmare client – but I will assume that you already know that will make your working life difficult – to say the least – so will leave it for now)

Be interested in hearing more about your product

Have the money to spend on what you have established is your ideal ‘going rate’ for your product or service (you do NOT want to get into an exercise where you are at a race to the bottom in terms of price. You will never beat the ‘big boys and girls’ and they will put you out of business if all you are competing on is price).

Be looking for a solution to the problem that you have identified as the one you are solving through your product or service

The should ideally be warm to your business – or if you’re new, your offer

Be happy to spread the word among their networks about you

Be happy to pay you what you are worth in order to find the solution to their problem – and they don’t resent paying for your offer

Creating Your Ideal Client Profile

Before we get started, there are two things to remember:

1. this isn’t an actual real life person. You are averaging the key attributes for the ideal client that you WANT to work with.

2. your ideal client isn’t you (I’ll come on to this later).

Now we’re going to get super specific. When I say ideal client (singular) I really mean 1 person. Think of a specific person that you and your business will reach. They will be your biggest fan because your freelance business is going to meet their needs and solve all of their problems. (OK, perhaps all is an exaggeration but all as they relate to what you are offering them).

Think of all of the key criteria above. You want to build the profile of someone who fits these attributes. All of them.

To start with, give them a name. Yes, I know, feels stupid but trust me, it works.

Giving your ideal client a name will help you to focus on them and their needs. It also helps you to create tailored marketing materials, social media messages and, of course, your products and services themselves.

At the same time as giving them a name, you will also have figured out their gender.

If you’re not yet in business, what gender do you think you are most likely to be working with? If you’re already in business, what gender are the majority of your clients? If it’s a 50/50 split, no problem. Just choose one. Remember, you are looking at an average in order to give you a specific person.

Get into specifics

Now you want to ask yourself specific questions about this person so that you can get really clear on them in your head.

How old are they? Where do they shop? Do they have kids – how old are they? Where do they live? What are their favorite brands? What do they do in their spare time? What kind of car do they drive? How much do they earn (exact figure here) and where do they work? Again, be as specific as possible. No generic answers.

It might seem difficult at first but, as you start to go through the exercise, you will get a clearer picture in your head of who your ideal client might be.

Although you are not your ideal client, this might be a version of you. For example, if you’re offering advice that you have learned yourself, it might be a version of you 2, 5 or 10 years ago.

Size isn’t everything – in this respect at least

Don’t worry about creating too small a niche. Being specific will help you to build your business offer. This will mean that you can be more successful early on in your freelance business than you would be if you find yourself stumbling about in the dark with only a vague idea of who you want to reach.

Don’t forget about you

This is an ‘ideal’ client. You want to make sure that they don’t have aspects that you don’t want to work with.

If you’re a freelancer who doesn’t want to work with people who don’t have a clue what they need from you, build that in to your ideal client profile. For example, if your business is around a specific hobby market, this might mean that you are trying to reach existing hobbyists in your field rather than reaching out to those who have never tried this particular hobby.

Being clear about what your ideal clients wants and needs from you will mean that you can hone in on the specifics of who you need to target.

You might, for example, have realized that you want to work with career changers who are still working in senior management jobs earning $70,000 pa who are willing to spend $1000+ on career coaching to help them to radically change their career.

That means you will avoid networking in the wrong groups, offering career coaching to people who can’t afford your services or who are not at the same stage as the ideal client that you’ve identified.

What next?

Now that you’ve figured out who your ideal client is (you might even have doodled a little picture of them…)

how to find your ideal client

(…or not) but what use is this information to you?

Make yourself desirable

Now, you want to make yourself as attractive as possible to that ideal client. You want to move in the circles that they move in – on and offline – and you want to speak their language, positioning yourself and your offer as the ideal solution to their problem.

Establish yourself as the expert in your niche and start hanging out where they hang out. When you do this, you will start to get an even clearer picture of what they need and want  and can tailor your offer and your messages even more.

Keep doing this – keep listening and responding to the needs and wants of your ideal client – and before too long, you will find that they are searching you out to take advantage of your products and services.

Starting a freelance biz? Figure out how to find your ideal client - & why Click To Tweet

Please let me know how you’re getting on with creating your ideal client profile – or if you’re struggling to figure out who they might be, please put your questions in the comments below. And, of course, if you know someone who is trying to figure out how to find their ideal client, please share this post with them (just use the sharing buttons at the top!).

 

 

How to Write a Freelance Business Plan

how to write your freelance business plan

Hello and welcome to part 2 of 15 Days to Running Your Successful Freelance Business. If you missed part 1, Finding Your Perfect Career, just hop on over there now and read this.

Now that you’ve figured out what it is that you want to do as your freelance business, you need to figure out HOW you’re going to go about it. And the best way to get clarity on your goals is to write a freelance business plan.

Now, before you go all ‘no! I hate this. It’ll stop my creative flow!’ I will just say this:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Yep, it’s a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I appreciate that as a self-confessed planning freak the thought of writing a business plan should fill me with joy. It doesn’t. So, in other words, I feel your pain.

However, it’s true to say that if I didn’t have a plan there are two main areas that I would struggle with:

1. I would have no Plan B for when things didn’t work out the way I had planned. This has happened to me and, yes, it is likely to happen to you too

2. And how on earth would I know if I’d been successful?

You might look at number 2 and think that the obvious answer is: when I’ve made my first sale. Or when I’ve made the same money as I earn now. Or, when I’ve made my first million (we’ve all got to dream). But the point is, if you don’t set yourself specific business objectives and goals that you want to achieve within certain timescales, how will you know what success really looks like?

Too many freelance businesses go to the wall because they didn’t have a plan. They relied on word of mouth for reaching clients and then had no back up plan for when that stopped working for them. Or they had a couple of clients that took up all of their time, but no other income streams – like passive income – for when those clients (inevitably) disappeared.

I know you’re creative and like to fly by the seat of your pants. You like to think on your feet (and any other well used phrase that springs to mind). And that’s great but when you hit a curve ball – or face a fantastic opportunity – chances are you will be less able to turn these situations to your advantage if you haven’t developed a well-thought out business plan.

Even the most successful entrepreneurs who dream up business ideas in their sleep have business plans – which is, of course, why they are so successful.

My final word(s) on why you need a business plan.

It will create even more flexibility within your business.

You will have planned for aspects not working out and will know what your next move needs to be, so won’t waste time trying to figure it out as you go. You’ll be putting your Plan B into action while the person without the business plan will still be figuring out what their Plan B is. (Incidentally, at the moment you are that person without a plan and are at risk of being overtaken and out manouvered by your more organized competitor).

Or, on a more positive note, when you are achieving even more success than you thought you would, you will be able to capitalize on that. Potentially you could expand your business or move into new areas because you will have already considered the options available to you.

OK, that’s me. Lecture over. Now on to writing your freelance business plan itself…


Business plans tend to cover a period of around 3 to 5 years, and for your first freelance business plan it might be an idea to write this with a 3 year time frame in mind, but there’s no hard and fast rule on this one.

However, remember that the best business plans are not exercises in creating plans that get filed away on the shelf. Oh no. The best business plans have one common aspect.

They are dynamic.

They are referred to at least quarterly and definitely once every 6 months. And they are revisited and reviewed every year. Tweaked to take into account what has actually happened that year.

In my first year of business, all of my work came in through tenders. In my second, all came in through word of mouth – a trend that has continued, but that I hadn’t anticipated at the start of year 2.

So what goes into the plan?

The areas that you need to include are:

1. What is your business? – This is the easy part. Describe in a few sentences what your business will do and whether you will offer service or products (or both).

a) What is your overall vision for the business – this essentially means – where do you want your freelance business to be? Do you want to be the top place in your State that people think of to buy cupcakes (I know I’ve mentioned cupcakes in a few posts already – what can I say? I like cupcakes)?

b) What is your mission – or in other words, how will you achieve your vision? Maybe you’ll provide cupcakes for special occasions, such as parties and weddings, selling through local farmers markets, while running baking classes for local kids.

c) Who is in the business? If you’re running a freelance business, it’s likely to just be you, but if you’re going to involve or work with other partners, put this in here. I partner up with other freelancers who provide complimentary services to mine. Or, if you use the services of a web designer, virtual assistant, book-keeper etc. include these in here.

2. Objectives – what are your business goals over the next 12 months, 2 or 3 years?

3. Who are your customers? Think about who your ideal client will be. What are they looking for and why will they buy from you? (I’ll be doing an entire post on your Ideal Client as part of this series, and will go into more detail on this then).

4. Market Analysis – Are there other small freelance businesses within your niche? (Incidentally, if the answer to this is no, you may need to ask yourself why. While you might think ‘yeah! No competition’ the reality might be that there’s no market).

5. Products & Services – which products and services will you be providing e.g. face to face consultancy/design services plus online eproducts. Physical cupcakes plus online baking tutorials and recipe books.

6. Delivery – how will you get your products and services to market? Are you providing a purely online business – such as a blog or online training – or will you be selling physical products? If the latter, you need to think about how you will physically sell and ship the product. If the former, what do you need to do to get your service or eproduct into the market place?

7. Pricing – think about how much you will be charging for each of your products and services in order to breakeven and make a profit in the longer run. This will give you an idea of how much you need to be selling each month, as well as how much you need to charge for your services in order to make enough money. If you’re not sure, here’s a nice little calculator to help you figure out what you need to charge based on your desired annual salary, annual leave, and the number of billable hours you will work each week.

8. Resources – what resources will your business need to help you to deliver your product or service? This can be as basic as a website and blog depending on your business model. Most freelance businesses are going to be more simple in terms of their resource requirements, but think about every aspect that you will need.

9. Branding – what is your company’s brand (again, I’ll be doing a whole post on this but now is the time to give some consideration to your branding). Branding is about more than just your logo, it’s your promise to your customers. Maybe you’re ‘the best mobile hairdresser in Houston?’ or ‘the no holds barred career coach’. If you’re still unsure about branding, wait for my full post on it or hop on over to The Entrepreneur where they have a post on the basics of branding for small businesses.

10. Marketing & Promotions – how are you going to reach your ideal clients? What different marketing channels will you use? To do this effectively you will need to know which channels your ideal clients are already accessing.

11. SWOT – Now you need to consider the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to your freelance business. Do you have fantastic networks – or are they weak? Are there gaps in your skills that you need to fill? Will you struggle to deliver your business over the long school summer vacation? Don’t just think about what each of these aspects are. Think about how you will capitalize on strengths and opportunities and how you will overcome weakness and threats. (N.B. strengths and weaknesses are aspects that are internal to the business – such as your skills and networks, your weaknesses, gaps in your knowledge – while opportunities and threats tend to be external factors that you don’t have direct control over – such as potential partnerships or new markets opening or a new business identical to yours opening up in your market.

12. Financials – what are your start-up costs, your monthly expenses and what will be your overall spend each year? You also want to think – realistically – about how much you see your business earning each month, quarter, and year. Try to assign income to particular streams – so for example, if you’re offering one to one consultancy, selling ecourses and will write an ebook, how much do you anticipate each area bringing in?

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And there you have it. Those are the basics of what you need to include when you are writing a freelance business plan. The reality is that thinking about writing your plan is usually far worse than actually doing it. And once you have written it, you then have a template for all of your future plans that you are building on and not starting from scratch. Now you have the launchpad for your new freelance business idea.

Over to you. What do you think of the plan? Do you have any specific questions or do you wish you’d started out with a freelance business plan when you launched your business? Are you starting to get excited about planning out your new freelance career (or is it just me that gets excited about planning?!)

I’d love to hear about your experiences or answer any questions you might have so, as ever, please let me know in the comments below. And if you know anyone who will benefit from learning about writing a freelance business plan, please share it (the buttons are on the left). Thank you!

The number 1 way to find your perfect career

finding the perfect career
Image: Ryan McGuire, gratisography.com

 

Today is the first in the “15 Days to Running a Successful Freelance Business” series, and in this post, I’ll be focusing on how to go about finding the perfect career for you.

Some of you reading this will already have a clear business idea that you are desperate to launch. And that is fantastic news.

However, many more of you I suspect just know that you want to work for yourself but can’t figure out how to go about finding the perfect career OR you have a vague idea of what you want to do, but are struggling to pin it down.

If you’re reading this thinking ‘that’s me!’ be assured you’re not alone.

There’s a reason more of us than ever are seeking out the help of life coaches and career coaches. For a start, there is no longer such a thing as a ‘career for life’ thanks to the lack of stability in many industries. However, there is also a greater desire not to stick with the one career all our working lives.

We want to do more, see more, and be more.

We want to take advantage of the new opportunities that new technology, greater access to education, and an increasingly smaller world provide (thanks to better cheaper travel and the Internet).

But, while we’re bombarded with numerous possibilities of what that perfect career might be, there really is only one way to figure out what you want to be ‘when you grow up’:

 

Find your passion.

OK, OK, hear me out.

I know, you’ve read that a million times. But you’ve already attended every personal growth seminar on the planet AND signed up to all the online coaching, and you still haven’t figured out what your passion is.

You don’t have any hobbies that you’d want to turn into a business (does looking stuff up on Google count?)

You don’t get particularly ‘fired up’ about things.

You prefer eating cupcakes to making them.

And you’re fairly sure that watching back to back episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ isn’t going to lead to a new career. (That said, for those of you with kids, Stampy has made an ENTIRE career out of playing ‘Minecraft’ and sharing his experiences on YouTube, so if you’re creative about it, you can build a career out of anything).

I know that being told to ‘find your passion’ is daunting and just a tiny bit vague and touchy feely (for me at least).

So far, so frustrated.

I have literally spent hours – and a lot of money – trying to figure out my ‘why’ only to realize that I was doing it all along.

I love writing.

Being an expert kept coming up in my Myers Briggs tests – in fact, it has for years, I’ve just ignored it.

And planning and organizing feature strongly in my preferred things to do – which is how, (very) slowly and (not terribly) surely, Apricot Ginger was born. Here, I bring together my love of writing, giving out advice – and advice that is quite often around the old planning and organising theme.

However, I didn’t suddenly have an epiphany where it all fell into place for me. When I say slowly and surely it came together I mean S-L-O-W-L-Y.

And while I have just been disparaging about the number of hours I spent trying to figure it out, the reality is that I slowly worked my way through several different ideas until I came to one that brought everything together naturally. So you don’t have to have a flash of inspiration and figure it all out at once. The reality is that your business idea is likely to change and develop – possibly before you even start working in your business.

How can you figure out your passion without it driving you crazy?

(DISCLAIMER: I can’t actually guarantee that it won’t drive you crazy but the aim here is to give you some clarity).


1. What do you love?

Starting with the more obvious – do you have a hobby or past-time that you love so much you can envisage spending your whole working life devoted to it?

My uncle loves sailing and he checked over boats for prospective buyers who weren’t quite as savvy as he when it came to how they handled. It was never his full-time career, but was a nice sideline for someone who can’t be away from the water for more than 24 hours at a time. I’m not sure it made him huge amounts of money, but he scored a few paid holidays to Spain to view boats. Not too shabby for a sideline.

I know lots of people have hobbies but you have to be really honest and ask yourself ‘is this something I could do 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?’

It might feel like it while you’re still working at something else but often, hobbies are an escape from the 9 to 5. Could making it the 9 to 5 kill your enthusiasm?

Of course, there are times when we all fall out of love with what we do. I love to write but there are days when getting out another blog post is a chore – but that’s different from falling completely out of love with it. And it’s usually because my planning & organization gene has kicked in and needs to write some lists or get some ideas for the business down on paper.

If you’re serious about turning your hobby into a business, sit down and list out everything you love about it versus the aspects that you find less thrilling. Then consider how you would deliver your hobby as a business model – if you love crafting, for example, do you want to open an Etsy shop for the items you make, or would you prefer to offer raw materials for sale? Or maybe you don’t have any desire to sell products, but instead want to sell your expertise through classes, ebooks or courses. If so, what aspects of running this business would you love and which would you find more difficult?

(I’ll talk about delivering your business more in the next post in this series but this should help you to think about the pros and cons of making your hobby your business).

 

2. Scratching an Itch

The other way to figure out how to find a career that you love is to ask yourself whether you have an itch that you’d like to scratch. Is there a particular problem that you want to find a solution to?

I remember reading about a woman who was sick of losing socks in the wash and ending up with lots of odd socks (we’ve all been there). Her solution was to prototype a plastic clip that allowed you to put socks into the wash as a pair and ‘hey presto’ no more lost socks. Seems simple but, while we’ve probably all been frustrated by this one, she was the only one who came up with the solution – and crucially, had the tenacity to get it to market.

What do you get most frustrated with because you know there must be a better way of doing it? And more importantly, do you have that better way in mind?

I have lots of these, but in the main, they are to do with frustrations with politicians and democracy in general, so I’m not sure I’ll find an outlet myself through this route, but you might.

 

3. What can you not help doing?

Marianne Cantwell (one of my online business gurus) often talks about how we are always encouraged to focus on improving areas that we’re not good at rather than becoming better at what we already do quite naturally.

From school days to our working lives, report cards and appraisals often seem to focus on developing the skills that we’re less good at in the hope that we’ll become moderately better at them.

Wouldn’t your time be so much better spent if you focused on becoming brilliant at the things that you’re already naturally good at?

I meant, think about it. You were terrible at Physics at school, so you spent loads of time (and possibly money on tutors) to improve your ability to the point where you manage to scrape a C in your exam. Of course, you and your parents are delighted, as you all thought you were on track for a D minus.

Meanwhile, you are naturally good at English. However, because of all the time you spent cramming Physics, you didn’t have time to revise all of the necessary coursework, which meant that you missed out a few poems that would have improved your exam repertoire. For English, you achieved a B – not too shabby. Until you consider the fact that an A+ was within your grasp.

find your perfect career

If you are having a crisis of confidence – and we all have them – ask others what they see as your strengths before having a go at them yourself. Personally, I found this really useful.

I know I’m good at planning and organizing – and I love doing it (weird, I know). However, I also asked my sister’s, my husband, a good friend and a former work colleague what they thought my strengths were and guess what? Turns out I am Mrs Planning and Organization. Oh, and apparently, I’m good at writing/communications too – see those themes are forming again?

Think about what people always come to you for to ask your help with. Are you asked to help get teams together or to organize events or nights out with the girls/boys?

Do you always get handed the bill when you’ve been out for a meal with friends because you’re good at figuring out the split between you all and getting the tip right?

My point here is that to truly find your passion, you need to ignore that inner voice that tells you that you can’t do X because you’re rubbish at Y and tune into the voice that tells you what you are good at.

Your time is better spent becoming great at the things you're already naturally good at Click To Tweet

 

4. Are you an expert?

This is by far the easiest way to start your own small business. Perhaps you already work – or have experience – in an area that you could offer expertise in.

If you’re an accountant, a designer or a video producer you could do all of these as a freelancer.

Maybe you are at a high level in your current career, which doesn’t work well for the flexible lifestyle that you want to have. Could you offer your services as a consultant?

Offering freelance or consultancy services also gives you flexibility around delivery of your service. So you might offer your services online, via Skype, you might write the ‘must have’ book in your area (creating passive income) or you may decide that you want to focus on delivering training – either via webinars, seminars, one to one – or a combination.

If you’re already an expert in a particular field, think about how you could offer this as a service and the various modes of delivery that you could/would want to offer.

Figuring out your passion is the number one way to finding the perfect career for you.

I’d love to know if you’ve read through this and had an ‘ah hah!’ moment, or if you’re building your freelance or small business, how you figured out what route to follow. Please let us know in the comments below.

 

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. – Nelson Mandela