Category: business

41 Ways to Be A More Productive Freelancer

how to be more productive as a freelancer

About 15 years ago, I had a job where I worked from home.

When I got the job, I was delighted.

No commute.

Managing my own workload.

Working in my PJs.

Perfect.

2 months later, my house was spotless (and I mean, deep cleaned from top to bottom), I’d planned an entire house makeover – including colours and new furniture, and I’d gotten to know my new neighbours really, really well.

It was at that point that I asked my new employer if I could get a desk in the local office.

Safe to say, I discovered that I wasn’t hugely disciplined when it came to working from home the first time around.

8 years later, I set up my first consultancy business and – knowing myself so well – decided that if I was going to be a success, that I’d better put a few systems in place to help me be more productive.

Of course, working for myself did give me a certain ‘hunger’ for success that I didn’t have when I had an employer. And my circumstances had changed – I had 2 young kids and really wanted to work from home to be around for them.

But still, I was slightly worried I might fall into my former unfocused ways. So here are the tips that work for me (and no, I do not always stick to them rigidly – I’m human!) so please feel free to swipe them and adapt them for you.
how to be a more productive freelancer

41 Ways to Stay Productive as a Freelancer / If You Work From Home

1. Focus on a Single Purpose – keep your top business priorities in mind and focus on doing what it takes to achieve them. So my absolute priorities are to deliver a quality service to my clients, to help other freelancers, and to run a successful home based business that contributes to the family finances each and every month. If I find myself working on a project or task that isn’t going to help to meet one of these top priorities then I am ruthless about dropping it. I learned this through bitter experience of focusing on the wrong things, accepting the ‘wrong’ work and just generally being unfocused.

2. Avoid Distractions – obvious one here but turn off your email. Take your social media off your phone and don’t have it open on the desk top. I would say turn off your phone, but I personally keep mine switched on in case the school calls about either of my kids – but you can always turn the volume down if you find you are getting endless calls.

Switch off app notifications in the settings so you’re not constantly being ‘pinged’ when someone follows you on Twitter or Pinterest. You could even try switching on the radio and listening to some music if you find that helps you to focus and switch off from any outside distractions (like the builders who are building an extension on my neighbour’s house!!!)

3. Avoid Meetings – OK, this is a difficult one but do you really need to have a meeting or could you do it over the phone? I used to work in a university and they LOVE to have meetings about everything. It was a great way of meeting colleagues in a large organisation, but it wasn’t always an effective use of time. If you really can’t avoid a meeting, set strict deadlines. And stick to them. This rule applies to Skype calls and webinars too.

4. Have an Agenda – following on from that, if you have an agenda, it’s easier to stick to the timings of meetings etc.

I even write out agendas prior to client phone calls to make sure that a) we cover everything and b) we focus on what needs to be done without going off on tangents. Of course, it’s tempting to have a chat about other things – especially as I work from home and Murdo isn’t always the chattiest of companions – but it won’t help you to stay on task.

5. Block Off Times To Work on Specific Activities. Will you get distracted sometimes? Yes, of course, you will. But blocking off time helps you to maintain focus.

I block off chunks of time for promotional activity, writing, client work, guest posts etc. at the start of the week. This has the added bonus of avoiding the endless ‘to do’ list full of little tasks. (see my diary below – and yes, I do block in time to walk the dog and go for a run!)

how to be a productive freelancer

6. Know Yourself Better – We’re all different and all work differently. If you’re better at writing first thing, block off time to do that then. If you’re better at research in the morning, do it then. Knowing when you are most productive – and what tasks give you energy (or do the opposite) will help you to figure out what to do and at which times of the day. There’s a great post on productivity that was written for bloggers – but the rules pretty much apply to anyone working for themselves.

7. Chunk Similar Activities Together – I draft posts for this blog, my other blog and my clients at the same time. They are similar activities and so I get in the flow of doing this. I then write posts in batches – and if writing is an activity that you need to do in your business, take a look at Ali Luke’s post on Boost Blog Traffic about being a more productive writer – it’s gold, and I’ve adopted a few of her tips.

I also have specific times for doing admin or promotional activities. And, as I’ve written about before, I chunk my social media in batches too.

8. Get Up Earlier – for those of you who know me, I can hear your hollow laughter so stop it! I am NOT a morning person and much prefer working in the evenings, but as my kids get older, they go to bed later and so I’ve had to switch from working in the evenings to the mornings. This would have been impossible for me a few years ago when my son used to get up at 5.30am – no way I could get up at 4.30am like Gina Horkey! – but now that he’s almost a teenager and I need to crowbar him out of bed, I set my alarm for 6am and get a good hour of emails and social media done before he’s up. (My daughter has always been far more sensible – ie like her mother – when it comes to mornings).

9. Group Interruptions – if you know that there are certain household chores that need doing during the working week – like calls to suppliers or deliveries – then chunk these together too. Lunchtime is a good time to do this, or I finish up half an hour earlier than usual and do them at the end of the working day.

10. Outsource Chores – when you’re starting out in your freelance business, this might not be possible financially, but if you can share the household work with your other half – or the little darlings – then do that. My son (12) washes the car, walks the dog and feeds the animals, my daughter (9) cleans her room (ahem!). My other half does the bins, dishwasher and bathrooms and I’m in charge of shopping, cooking (I’m the only one who doesn’t burn water!) and laundry (I’m here to hang it out and bring it in when the inevitable rain starts). The other stuff we all pick up at the weekends.

11. Have Email Rules – I like this one. As well as not keeping your email open, I’ve read a few articles about keeping your emails to a maximum length. 5 sentences seems to be the recommended max. This stops you from sending rambling emails that take you an hour to edit, and makes you get to the point.

Another idea is to only check your email in the afternoon, so you can focus your work in the morning without any distractions. But this can be a bad idea if you’ve had an email in overnight that needs quick action. I check my emails first thing – that hour before the kids get up – and if there’s no crisis to be averted or urgent actions, I deal with them later in the day.

12. Use Technology – I know some people hate tech but when there are so many tools out there that can make you more productive, it’s worth using them. Here are a few of my favourites – and they’re mostly free too, which is even better!

13. Read It Later – my latest favourite tool is Pocket – kind of like a bookmark, it’s an app where you can add interesting online articles as you come across them and then I read them on the app on my phone when I have time later rather than interrupting the working day.

14. Perfect Doesn’t Exist – I’ve procrastinated on product launches, dithered over sending emails, and spent hours tweaking blog posts that were already fine as they were. If you don’t get anything out there, you don’t have a business. And if you keep procrastinating, it will kill your productivity stone dead.

 

The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.

Seth Godin

 

15. Use the Rule of 3 – set yourself 3 goals for the day at the start of each day – make them big goals that have tasks attached to them.

So, for example, I will set myself the goal of drafting several blog posts in the morning – which includes research, promotional activity – e.g. emailing potential clients & promoting on social media, and dealing with admin – comments on blog, updating social media

16. Keep your Desk Tidy – a messy desk may be the sign of an organised mind but, in reality, it’s usually a sign that you’ll spend an hour looking for a vital piece of paperwork only to discover it’s right under your nose.

Have a filing system.

I have 3 folders – shred, read, file. I sort paperwork out into these as I go and spend an hour a week sorting them. (I have to admit, I am way behind on the filing part…)

17. Stop Watching TV – or batch your favourite programmes and watch them on catch up TV all in one go. But don’t spend evenings in front of the box when you could be working on a new product launch, finding new clients, or creating a new business idea. Or doing your tax return.

18. Get Into a Routine – Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter has themes for each day of his working week – like marketing on a Monday, idea generation on a Tuesday and so on.  Evan Williams, founder of Blogger, takes the middle of the day off. And Winston Churchill started the working day from his bed.

Whatever helps you, having a routine will create focus, as it means you will know what you’re doing when, and will help you to avoid time spent panicking in front of the computer with the sheer scale of what you have to do. I aim to write in the morning, and do admin/promotion in the afternoon.

And I take a Friday off.

19. Learn To Say No – It is tempting in the early days to say yes to everything. But since I learned to say no, I’ve created more focus – and earned more money as a result. Focus on what you need to do to get the job done. People will respect you for it if you do it well.

20. Focus On What You Do Best – again, in the early days, you are likely to have to do everything in your business due to a lack of extra cash. But, as the business grows, try to outsource tasks – particularly those that don’t play to your strengths.

Get your business cards and logo designed on Ffiver, spend some money getting someone to create a decent WordPress template for you or to set up your mailing list/newsletters.

how to be a more productive freelancer

21. Look After Yourself – get some exercise, get out in the fresh air, drink plenty water, and eat a healthy diet. You’ll feel better, have more energy and be more creative as a result.

I walk the dog, go for a run 3 times a week and do the school run every day (on foot – not in the car). It gets me out in the fresh air, gives me the chance speak to friends, and keeps me fit. And I’m 14lbs lighter than I was when I commuted 60 miles a day.

(But no, I still don’t drink enough water!)

22. Stop Writing a ‘To Do’ List! – instead, chunk up the day and focus on the bigger aspects that you need to cover rather than writing endless lists of smaller tasks, which will just overwhelm you. So Promotions, Writing, Research – three big headings for the day but each will have smaller tasks within them. Just don’t endlessly list them out.

23. Use Your Time Wisely – when you freelance, you have no commute and that gives you extra time in the day to work.

Or, if you’re out walking or running, why don’t you subscribe to a podcast or download an audible book to keep your skills up.

24. Use Your Commute – of course, if you’re still working and are setting up your freelance business as a side hustle, then why not use your commute time to listen to podcasts/books?

25. Stop Multi-Tasking – when you work from home, it’s tempting to do all the housework, run your business, deal with personal finances and everything else throughout the day (see my earlier experience of working from home for evidence of that!).

But that means you’re not remotely focused. Sure, being at home should be an advantage and mean you can get through the work, but try to keep your personal or household chores to specific times – like lunchtime or after school.

26. Disappear – if you can, switch off your phone, go work in the library, turn off your social media – and FOCUS.

27. Delete Tasks – As author Cathy Presland’s says, ask yourself:

Is this contributing to my financial goals for the month,

Does this fit with my vision for the business,

Am I working to my strengths?

If a task doesn’t answer yes to at least one of these, then take it off the list.

28. Get Up to Speed – check your priorities the night before so you have a clear idea of what you will be working on tomorrow. Now you can have everything set up in advance.

Including the right mindset.

29. Deal with the Worst First – there is a lot of advice out there about doing your worst or most difficult task first.

To be honest, this doesn’t work for me as I need to get into my work flow a bit before tackling these sort of jobs – but if it works for you great!

And, if you’re like me, then try doing a few easier tasks first, and then tackle your worst job. What I always aim to do is get any difficult tasks out of the way in the morning.

30. Know When You’re Done – if you have specific goals for projects (which is my way of saying – you should have specific goals for your projects) then you’ll know when you’ve reached them.

31. Be Accountable – when you work on your own, it’s easy to get lost in your work and lose focus – particularly when you have a large number of projects that you’re working on.

Share your goals with others – friends or family or other freelancers that you work with (not your clients!) – and you’ll soon discover that, by being held accountable, you will increase your productivity.

32. Set Up the Right Environment – if you work from the kitchen table and are constantly distracted by noise, household chores or people coming in and out of the room, you’re not going to be hugely productive.

Get a workspace that is calm, where you can work in peace – or alternatively, where you can open the door and share the buzz if that’s what you prefer. Keep your desk clear and your space organised and notice the increase in your productivity as a result.

33. Delegate

I delegated the areas I struggled with to people who also believed in the project. This freed up my time to focus on what I was good at.

Sir Richard Branson

(And who am I to argue with Sir Richard?)

34. Do Small Tasks Quickly – you will have small things that need done during the day. Emails that need to be sent, newsletters that you have to schedule or tweets that have to be sent. Do these tasks quickly and move on.

35. Stay On Track – if you’ve blocked off chunks of time in your diary for specific tasks, stick to them. I’m not going to lie, I find this one difficult – especially if I’m in the midst of writing. However, if you get to the end of one blocked off timed project, and you haven’t finished the task in hand, try moving on to the next one (unless it’s vital that you finish it today). If you have no time left in your diary that week for that particular task, can you get up earlier to do it or work on it later once the kids have gone to bed? Try to stick to your schedule as much as possible or your whole day is at risk of backing up. Once you’ve been freelancing for a while, you will get more of an idea of how long things will take too, so this will get easier.

how to be a more productive freelancer

36. Congratulate Yourself – give yourself rewards for finishing projects. Even something as small as having a coffee (and a cake!) when you’ve finished up working on your ideal client profile or updating your LinkedIn profile, for example. Small rewards are a good way of breaking up the day and moving on to the next chunk of work in a positive frame of mind.

37. Unsubscribe – OK, obviously I’m keen that you keep receiving my newsletter 😉 but how many emails do you receive in your inbox daily that you just don’t read? Pick 2 or 3 that you really read and use – and delete the rest. Or, if there are any emails that you just can’t bear to unsubscribe from, try having them sent direct into a specific Email Subs folder – rather than clogging up your Inbox.

38. Stay Positive – ban negative people and negativity from your life, and you are more likely to stay positive and on track as a result.

If you really can’t ban them (ie it’s your spouse or your mother!) then try to keep contact outside your working hours – and try not to discuss work with them (difficult in the case of your spouse).

39. Review – look at your progress each day, week and month. Are you getting through the work or are you becoming distracted? Look at where your focus is best and worst. What can you change to improve? Is there anything you can learn from when you are best focused that you can transfer to those times when you can’t focus?

I love writing and I am BAD at letting it take over my entire day. But ask me to call people, and I’ll do anything to avoid it. The solution – for me at least – is to work on the projects that I love first, then make a couple of calls, then go back to the work that I enjoy most, like a spot more writing or some social media. Or strategy and planning. I love strategy and planning (I am a freak, I know). Creating a little phone call sandwich in the middle makes it easier for me to get it all done.

40. Have Plans – I love a good business plan or a marketing plan, not least because they help you to stay productive. If you know where you’re going – and why – it’s easier to stay focused.

If you haven’t already, write your plans, even an outline is good, and (MOST IMPORTANT BIT HERE) review them regularly!

Aim to look at your marketing plan monthly and your business plan quarterly as a minimum. This will help you to get back on track if you’re becoming distracted – or decide to ditch what isn’t working and stop it using up valuable time.

how to be a productive freelancer

41. Time Out – if you’ve really hit a wall – and let’s face it, we all have days like that – then it might be that you need to switch of the computer and your phone and have a duvet day. Or visit friends. Or go for a long walk on the beach. Whatever recharges your batteries. There are times when you just can’t do any more and fighting it might be the worst thing you can do.

The beauty of working for yourself is that you have the option to do this. Just try not to roll one day off into an entire week!

BONUS TIP:

And Finally… At the end of the working day, focus on one specific task and complete it. Then finish up for the day. Completing a task at the end of the day is good for boosting your mood AND starting the following day with a positive mindset.

 

Phew! And that’s the end of the list. Thanks for sticking with it.

What ways do you use to stay productive?

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!

 

 

 

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…

 

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.

Book Review Tuesday: Be a Free Range Human

book review tuesday

Hello and welcome to the first of my Tuesday book review series.

Since starting this freelance life of mine, I have read blogs, books, taken courses and coaching sessions – all to help me to figure out how to get better at what I do and how to use the skills I already have to best effect.

book review be a free range humanAnd, with that in mind, I thought one of the best books I could kick the book review series off with would be Marianne Cantwell’s ‘Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9 to 5, create a life you love and still pay the bills’

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT an affiliate or sponsored post.

So you want to work for yourself but have no clue what you want to do.

Or you are bursting with ideas but can’t figure out where to start.

Or maybe you just have a nagging feeling that there’s more to life than your current job and that it is, indeed, a short one so you want to make the most of it.

If that sounds like you, then Marianne says that this is the book for you.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Marianne’s philosophy is pretty much that we shouldn’t feel like we are trapped in our career cages (i.e. the 9 to 5 job) due to needing to earn a living or worrying about what society might think of us doing something crazy like – starting a business or living a location free life. Instead, she advocates that we should find the work that we are best suited to, that uses the skills and strengths that we already have and that makes us not just get up in the morning, but look forward to the day ahead.

STYLE

Written in a no nonsense tone, Marianne’s prose is not for the formal or faint hearted. Yep, she will thrown in the odd expletive. Her writing style is bolshy, energetic and enthusiastic. All of which means that, if you’re looking for a formal business guide – or you don’t like a conversational tone – then this isn’t a book you’re going to want to read. It’s not a formal business guide. And Marianne certainly doesn’t do boring.

OUTLINE

Marianne has walked the talk. She lives a free range life after having been in the career cage herself and has built her business up from scratch through sheer determination. However, what I like most about the book is that she doesn’t just focus in on her own story, but instead features case studies of people who have started their own free range careers – from someone who started a t-shirt business (that made 6 figures before he moved on to something else) to a guy who was terrible at languages at school who now earns a living, yep, you guessed it teaching languages online.

Each section deals with a specific aspect of your free range journey, so you can work through it at your own pace and filling it in according to your own situation. I bought the Kindle version so used a notebook as I read it, but it’s great to jot down ideas, thoughts and work through the exercises in the book.

The first time I read it (I’ve read it 3 times now) although I felt inspired, I was a tiny bit overwhelmed too. It’s a lot to take in and is a different way of approaching our working lives – so it takes a bit of getting used to (particularly if you’re used to the more formal career cage life). I did have a moment of panic when I got to the end of the book, but still didn’t really have an idea that I loved or that said ‘That’s me!’ in any definite way.

However, because Marianne is a believer in ‘play projects’ or just getting stuck in and trying things out in a small way before you dedicate your life to it, that doesn’t necessarily matter.

By the second reading, I had gotten used to the approach and started to form some more concrete ideas on where my focus would be. And, because Marianne thinks you should try out ideas in a small way first, you don’t need to bet the house on your new business venture or dedicate yourself to years of learning a new skill. In fact, that’s entirely against the ethos of Free Ranging.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT

This is a practical guidebook, where you are inspired by the content and then work through the exercises tailoring them to your specific wants/needs. And that means that there’s no ducking out or skimming through it only to come to the end, stick it on the shelf and forget about it.

Marianne knows her stuff – so read it, work through it, and get the most out of it.

MAIN TAKEAWAY

One idea that really resonated with me is that we spend so much time trying to improve the aspects that we’re not so good at, that we forget about the areas that come naturally to us. And those are the ones that we need to concentrate on if we want to really shine in this life. Wouldn’t it be better if we were all encouraged to work to our strengths and build those?

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS

This book was a slow burn for me – although I suspect there are others who will read it and be raring to go the minute they put it down. I found that having the opportunity to think it through and then go through it again (hey, that’s just the way I roll) worked best in helping me to form my ideas and get clarity on the way forward.

If you’re looking for a standard business/how to manual then this isn’t the book for you. But if you want to have a different career – even if you’re not sure what that might be – or if you have aspirations to get more out of your life AND build a career that works directly towards your own strengths – then this is a must read.

 

Have you read Free Range Humans? What did you think of it – what were the best and worst bits for you? And if you have any other books in a similar vein that you’d like to see in the monthly book review, please let me know in the comments below. Or get in touch if you’d like to submit a guest book review.

 

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