Category: freelancing

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

freelance productivity tips

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

 

Get Organized

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

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

 

Get Paid

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

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

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

 

Promote Your Brand (Consistently)

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

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

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

 

Stay Focused

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impossible?

That never happens?

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

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

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

 

Talk to Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Put Your Clients First

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

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

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

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

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

 

Go The Extra Mile

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

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

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

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

A free initial consultation

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

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

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

Send a card on their birthday

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

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

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

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

 

Keep In Touch

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ask for Testimonials – and Return the Favour

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

how to get paid as a freelancer

Cash is King.

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

Harsh?

Maybe.

But also true.

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

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

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

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

Not so…

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

 

1. Decide Your Payment Terms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Have a Contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. Have a Separate Bank Account

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

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

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

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

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

 

4. Use An Online Payments System

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

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

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

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

 

5. Give Added Value

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know in the comments below.

 

Help! I don’t have any clients…

how to get clients

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

And so the cycle goes on.

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

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

You get the picture.

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

 

1. Do you know who your Ideal Client is?

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

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

 

2. Go for Low Hanging Fruit

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

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

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

 

3. Who loves you already?

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

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

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

 

4. Consider building a mailing list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5. Be Irresistible

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

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

How do you do that?

Simple.

Ask them.

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

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

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

 

6. Go the Extra Mile

Offer something that no other freelancer in your niche offers.

Like an initial free 30 minute Skype consult.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

7 Essential Skills Every Freelancer Needs

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

 

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

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

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

Top 7 Skills Every Freelancer Needs

 

1. Multi-Tasking

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

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

In other words,

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

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

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

You get the picture.

PROS = No two days are ever the same

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

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

 

2. Networking

“But I HATE networking!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4. Promotions

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

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

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

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

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

Is a lot better than:

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

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

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

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

Doing something completely different from your former career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5. Resilience

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

6. A Sense of Humour

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

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

Clients understand IT issues – they have them too.

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

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

 

7. Ingenuity

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

INGENUITY

Printer broken? Send it as a PDF.

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Sometimes it’s stressful.

Sometimes it’s lonely.

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

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

 

1. Your Earnings Are Likely to Drop

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

You are probably starting from ground zero.

You may never have had to market yourself before.

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. You Will Work Long Hours

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

Pah!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4. You Will Find Out Who Your Friends Are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

5. The Buck Stops With You

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

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

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

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

 

6. It’s Lonely

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

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

 

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

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

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

But there’s also…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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!

 

 

 

Book Review Tuesday: Write by Cathy Presland

book review tuesday

 

It’s the first week in August, so it must be Book Review Tuesday! And yes, I know it’s Wednesday but it’s also the school holidays and if you missed it, my last post might explain why I’m 24 hours late in posting this.

This week, I’m reviewing Cathy Presland’s book, Write!. (I have the Kindle version, but it’s available in paperback too if you prefer flicking through actual pages).

tuesday book reviewCathy is a consultant and coach who helps people to write non-fiction books – to help them to reach a wider audience and promote their businesses.

I came across her a few years ago now when I first decided to write my own ebook but wasn’t really sure how to go about it. You can find more about Cathy here.

 


 

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Write! is a guide to help you to develop and write your own e-book. Taking you from finding an initial idea, right through to launching your book onto the market, this is a step by step guide that will walk you through the entire process.

STYLE

What I particularly like about Cathy’s writing is that she has a very practical writing style.

Each chapter deals with a specific aspect of writing an e-book – from brainstorming your original idea to the structuring your chapters to launching your book onto the market.

There are action points for you to carry out at the end of each section – so you can literally progress through your own writing as you read the book.

OUTLINE

The main premise of this book is that, if you’re a consultant, coach, or if you run a small business or freelance, writing a book is a good way of promoting your business, getting your name out there and reaching a new audience. And of course, it’s a good way of earning a passive income rather than selling your skills and knowledge in return for your own time.

At the start of Write!, there’s a section dedicated to brainstorming your book idea, so even if you like the idea of writing a book but have no inclination of what you might write about, you will get help in generating a few ideas.

Even if you already know what you’d like to write about, it’s worth reading this section to make sure that your idea has an audience. Writing an entire book only to discover no-one will actually buy it should be avoided at all costs!

Each section deals with the practical elements of writing a book. You will gain more of an insight into how to structure your book, different chapter styles you can use, and how to structure your book, as well as advice on how to launch your book and finding the time to write in the first place. There are examples of styles you can use, as well as practical exercises for you to work through.

In short, this is a workbook for anyone in the process of developing and writing a non-fiction book.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT

As you’ve probably noticed from the other books that I’ve reviewed so far, I like a book with a bit of a practical element to it – and Write! is bursting with practicality when it comes to writing an book. If you’ve never written a book before, and like to have some structure to follow, then you will love this too.

Like Ann Wilson and Marianne Cantwell, Cathy has also walked the talk, having written several non-fiction books – Write! obviously being one of these. And, as I said earlier, she runs a few courses on Udemy too. Cathy’s advice comes from someone who has learned themself through trial and error.

MAIN TAKEAWAY

Hopefully, the main takeaway that you will gain from Write! is a finished non-fiction book of your own.

Even if you don’t work through the exercises as you’re reading the book, at the very least, you will come away with a strong idea of how to create your own book – and reasons as to why you should. I felt motivated to write another ebook by the time I’d got to the end of Write! (watch this space…)

WHO SHOULD READ THIS

Even if you haven’t considered writing a non-fiction book before now, I’d recommend this book to anyone who runs their own business, freelances, or simply has knowledge or skills that they can pass on to others.

A book can put you in front of a whole new audience – as well as creating a passive income stream for your business. If you decide to go down the route of writing a book then this will help you to navigate the process easily.

Of course, there’s the whole area of which passive income stream is best for your business – ebooks, ecourses and so on  – but that’s for another post.

Cathy’s courses and books helped me to create my own ebook. I went from having a million and one ideas that I couldn’t tie down, to a finished product that has made – and continues to make – money for my business.

I’m not going to retire on the earnings any time soon, but it has made me far more than it cost to create – even with the cost of professional editing – and has brought me in front of an entirely new international audience.

If you’re interested in creating your own ebook, you can find Write! here.

And if you’re really serious about creating an ebook that will deliver an income for your business, then you should read this post from Boost Blog Traffic on 21 Dumb Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Ebook. I definitely fell into a few of these on the way!

Want to write a non-fiction book? Read my review of Cathy Presland's Write! Click To Tweet

Have you written your own non-fiction book – or are you tempted to? I’d love to hear from you about your experiences of writing a book – why you did it and if you found it worthwhile. Or if you’ve any questions about creating an ebook, pop them in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

How to Survive the School Holidays as a Freelance Parent

how to survive the school holidays as a freelance parent

 

For the first summer EVER since my eldest started school, I decided to take the entire summer off work.

No childcare, no meetings in the diary, no summer camp type activities booked – unless the kids wanted to do them rather than so I could have childcare cover for when I needed to work.

The plan was not to do no work, but to make sure that the kids came first and I would just work around them.

So far, so idyllic.

Except of course, for one tiny fact.

I’m an idiot.

Sure, taking the holidays off is a splendid idea. My eldest is going to high school and it seemed like a wonderful way to mark is transition by being totally available parent.

Apart from the bit about the fact that I HAVE to work.

I mean, I’m not so much of an idiot that I’d forgotten that fact, it’s just that for some bizarre reason (especially when you consider how much I like to plan things) I had sort of imagined that my work would just ‘happen’ in the random gaps and downtime in the day.

In reality, what happened was that week 1 didn’t go quite according to plan.

My son (formerly an early riser) suddenly became a teenager who wouldn’t get out of bed, and didn’t want to do anything – and all his friends had gone on holiday. Meanwhile, my daughter discovered a whole new set of friends around the corner and was out all day every day playing with them.

So, instead of trips for the 3 of us along with moments where both kids were out playing with friends, I had 1 kid who was never here and didn’t want to be with me, and another who was here all the time (although admittedly, he probably didn’t want to be with me either!)

And suddenly, I realized that a week had gone by during which I’d achieved nothing beyond trying to entertain grumpy almost teenager, being constantly interrupted by requests for food or complaints about boredom, while being unable to go anywhere because he wasn’t enthusiastic about anything and she was out playing with her friends. And the emails were starting to back up.

As soon as my other half got home from work, I would do precisely the following:

a) moan for half an hour about how I’d achieved nothing all day

b) feed us all

c) spend the entire evening on the computer panicking about how little I’d achieved all day and then panicking some more about how much I needed to do (without actually doing any of it) while being constantly interrupted by either the kids, my other half or the dog!

I hadn’t written any Apricot Ginger blog posts in advance (noticed the tumble weed on here for the past few weeks? *ahem*) and I hadn’t scheduled in any social media beyond week 1. By the middle of the 2nd week of the holidays I was starting to panic. Big time!

So, a few deep breaths later, one slightly ranty email to my other half and a pleading phone call to my mother, and I had secured a full day to myself to get my s*&t together.

In the interests of helping you to avoid the same fate and, if I’m being honest, to avoid making the same mistake myself in future, I thought it might be helpful to share a few words of wisdom to help any self employed or freelance types out there that I learned from my week and a half of stress at the start of the holidays.

 

Have a Plan

Yes, unbelievably, I sort of shimmy-ed up to the holidays all bright eyed with expectation about how fabulous it was going to be spending time with the children, while managing to still balance my work through the social media and remote working without actually having a plan as to how I was going to manage my workload.

In my utopian dream of a summer off with the kids spent taking advantage of new experiences as they arose I had forgotten the first rule of how to be as flexible as possible:

i.e. having a plan!

Ridiculous really when I am usually Mrs Organization but, because I had never taken the holidays off before, I had forgotten to apply my usual rules.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a blog post plan in the sense that I know what’s coming up. I just hadn’t actually planned when I was going to write the little babies!

The best way to be adaptable to new opportunities is to have a plan in the 1st place Click To Tweet

 

Automate

OK, I’ve written about automation before in this post here so I won’t go into masses of detail about how to do it or why, but that little day that the kids spent with Granny was a godsend when it came to social media. Because, beyond the first week, I hadn’t actually scheduled anything in.

Ordinarily, that’s no big deal as I do this once a week, but of course, I had no plan for when I was going to schedule in anything beyond this first week – a time when I was sole carer of the kids for 12 hours each day. So, now I have blocked off an hour on a Sunday morning while my other half and the kids walk the dog/do something away from the house when I can spend an hour bulk scheduling everything on Hootsuite.

 

Ask for Help

I am super lucky that my Mum lives a short 20 minute drive from me (actually, it was more by design than accident as we moved here for that specific reason after having the kids, however…)

I realize that not everyone is in the same position as me, but even if you don’t have family close by, ask friends for help with childcare – particularly other friends who freelance as they will understand your pain for a start. And of course, you can help each other out in times of urgent childcare need.

 

Don’t Forget About Execution

To be clear, this is not a childcare strategy – I’m talking about workload (honest).

I found myself half way through week 1 of the holidays not really enjoying myself, not spending any quality time with the kids, and generally feeling slightly anxious. I had half an eye on my work and half on entertaining the kids – which meant I wasn’t doing either terribly well (to put it mildly). In my mind, when I’d promised to take the holidays off, I had a vision of 6 weeks of chilled out bliss.

Of course, what happened was that I didn’t have my work planned out properly (or effectively is probably more accurate. I had a plan of WHAT needed done – I’d just forgotten the HOW I was going to achieve it part!).

In those 8 hours my Mum so generously gave me at the start of July, I wrote out when I was going to work on each of the areas I’d identified as work priorities to the middle of August by working back from 19th August (which is when the kids go back to school here) to the beginning of July and planning when I was going to work on each area in order to get them done.

 

Be Realistic

If you’ve little or no childcare for a month and a half, it’s unlikely that you’re going to achieve as much as you usually do. So perhaps your plan to write a book, develop an ecourse, gain 10 new clients and revamp your website are over ambitious? Look at the time you have and be realistic about what you can achieve.

I’ve given myself 3 priorities over the entire holidays:

Plan out 15 – 20 posts for Apricot Ginger and write/publish 6 of these

Deliver 6 guest posts plus 10 new outlines for my blog clients

Plan and initial prep for a promotion for my consultancy business (note I said, plan – I’m not launching until the end of August!)

Those are 3 areas that I would normally deliver in a much shorter time frame, but I simply don’t have that luxury.

I’ve also blocked off the days I have available to work between now and mid August and for each of those days, I have 3 daily priorities that will help me to reach my bigger objectives.

 

Carve Out Time Where You Can

My kids are 12 and 9 and the beauty of that is they don’t get up early during the holidays anymore. That means that – as I’m not an early riser – I can get a full hour of work done before they emerge from their rooms in the morning (Who am I kidding? I can get 3 hours done before my son appears!).

There’s no way I could have done this when they were little, as my son used to get up at 6am (which is about as early as I could possibly get up without needing to sleep for an hour at lunchtime myself!).

In those days, I did more work at the end of the day than at the beginning, but I much prefer getting an hour or 2 done in the morning, as it makes for a more relaxing day with the kids. Then I usually squeeze in another 2 to 3 hours in the evening depending on what we’ve had on that day.

Work when you can.

I’m not particularly good at fitting in bits and pieces of work in the odd half hour here and there as I much prefer having some time to focus.

I know it works well for other people – so if you can do that, go for it. But if, like me, you prefer some head down time to really crack on through the work, getting a chunk of time at either end of the day is a life saver.

 

Learn From Others

I noticed the other week that I was starting to obsess about productivity – everything I was saving onto Pocket, blogs that I was commenting on or sharing on Pinterest or Twitter – they all pointed to productivity.

There are fantastic tips out there if you’re really struggling to use the limited time available during the school holidays:

How to Be Self-Employed Over the Holidays Without Going Insane

12 Productivity Tips from Incredibly Busy Entrepreneurs

30 Quick Tips for Becoming More Productive

7 Tips for Writers Drowning in a Sea of Unwritten Content

I particularly like Ali Luke’s suggestion for batching common tasks (in the 7 Tips for Writers post). Sure, she’s talking about writing but you could apply that to anything in your workload, whether you’re a freelance event manager or a graphic designer. What can you batch and work through more quickly as a result?

 

I hope you’re enjoying the holidays and not finding the need to balance work and family too stressful – well, no more than usual 😉

I’d love to hear your tips for managing to stay sane during the long summer break so please pop them in the comments below.

And, as Jo Gifford says in her post above, remember why you’re doing this.

If you’re anything like me, you chose a freelance career BECAUSE OF and not in spite of, your family. The first step towards that is to have a clear plan for your work – and the rest should follow.