Category: freelancing

Developing a marketing plan for your freelance business

 develop a freelance marketing plan

 

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

 

Marketing is a contest for people’s attention Seth Godin

 

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

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

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

 

The 4 Ps

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

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

Product

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

Strategic Planning

Consultancy Services

Leadership Training for Managers

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

 

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

Business Logos, cards and letterheads

Promotional Banners

Promotional literature, brochures etc.

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

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

Take into consideration aspects like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Place

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

 

Promotion

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

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

Website

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

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

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

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

Network

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

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

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

Think about how you can add value NOT about selling yourself

Work for Free

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

Social media

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emailing

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

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

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

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

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

Phone Calls

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

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

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

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

Partnerships

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

How to set up a website for your freelance business

freelancewebsiteFB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get a Domain Name

The first step is to get a domain name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Build Your Site

You really have three options when building your website:

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

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

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

Why WordPress?

A quick round up of the reasons to use WordPress:

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

 

WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

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

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

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

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

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

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

build website traffic

 

To blog or not to blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing a hosting package

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

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

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

When deciding upon your host, consider the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to consider BEFORE setting up your website

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

What are you selling?

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

What solution are you offering your customers?

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

Consider your marketing

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Gates

 

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

 

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

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

12 Best Small Business Tools

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small business tools

When you’re running a small business, particularly when you’re just starting out, money can be tight, so here are my top 12 best small business tools that won’t break the bank but will help increase your productivity.

(SOME OF THE LINKS ARE AFFILIATE LINKS)

Planning

Trello helps you to plan and organise projects, and share them with your team. You can plan out marketing campaigns, product launches, website creation – whatever you are working on. Then, you can assign these tasks to others with dates for completion and notes alongside task, which they can then mark off once they’re complete. You can create checklists, add content from the web, add comments, schedule times and add labels. Trello is free to use and even if you don’t have a team, I find it helpful for planning blog posts, particularly if I am running a particular campaign to promote specific eproducts or training that I’m delivering.

best small business tools
Evernote is a workspace that can also be used to organise your projects and campaigns. Use it to store, organise and share content with your team. When I was writing my ebook for non-profits, I used it to clip articles and research from the web and store it all in a notebook that I’d created in Evernote. All of my research sources were then in one place, which helped the writing process flow more easily AND made it easy to find and credit my sources too. The basic package is free and the most expensive is £34.99 pa.

small business tools

Operations

Skype is the low cost/free (depending on what you’re using it for) way to make calls. For a small cost, you can get your own dedicated number with your a local dial code, which anyone dialling will only be charged local rates for regardless of where they are. It’s also a great way for liaising with clients or working with remote teams, as you can use the video call setting to feel as though you’re in the room with people. I particularly like the record feature which means that, if I am doing a Skype consult with a client, I can record it and then send it onto them to keep for future reference.

FreeAgent is the accounting software that I use for sending out my invoices, keeping track of my payments and helping me to fill out my tax returns. This is for UK based businesses only – as it sets out your tax for HMRC purposes rather than the IRS. My favourite feature is the payment reminder scheduler. No matter how good your clients are – even some of my very best clients have been terrible at paying on time – there will be times when you need to chase invoices. By setting up a reminder email series when you create your invoice, you don’t have to keep remembering to go back and chase them – the system will do it for you as often as you like. At £180 pa for sole traders it’s not cheap – but then again, when you compare it to the cost of an accountant, it’s an absolute bargain!

small business tools

Marketing/Communications

MailChimp is email marketing software that allows you to manage all of your subscribers in one place, send out email campaigns, run split tests. It will help you to optimise your emails by advising when you should send, and giving you detailed analytics on open and click rates. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t have first hand experience of MailChimp but I will be using it for Apricot Ginger in the near future. Free for up to 2,000 subscribers, this is perfect for small business startups. You can send out professional looking emails in a range of different formats and templates, without having any design experience. And the best part? You can figure out what your customers are interested in (or not).

Prezi is presentation software – think PowerPoint on caffeine. It allows you to create and share presentations that look as though a professional designer had created them. I’ve used it for training sessions, web presentations – and even to create video footage for my YouTube video series (I added the voiceovers using GarageBand on my iMac). In my personal opinion, Prezi is a cut above PowerPoint in terms of usability, as well as giving a professional edge to the overall look and feel of your presentations. Prices start from $0 for the basic package to $159 pa – well worth the investment.

Canva is the place I go to when I need to create graphics for my blog (like the one above). You can use their free images and text (there are lots to choose from), upload your own or pay a small amount (usually around $1) for graphics on their site. As well as making your blog images look a cut above the rest, you can also use it to create images for Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or headers for your emails. It doesn’t stop there though, as you can also use it for offline purpose, such as tickets or posters, as Canva gives you the option to download the image in various versions – some that are good enough to print, others that you can use online. Personally, I love Canva!

 

Sales

ejunkie is the platform I use to sell my ebooks. At an affordable $5 per month, all you need to do is upload your product to ejunkie, set the price (you can also run discounts or offer codes), add in details such as for the sales process, then add the html script that ejunkie generates to the webpage you are selling your product from. Then you can start promoting your product. ejunkie carries out all of the fulfillment (ie it sends on the product to your customer), processes the payment and applies any discounts that you have set up. You can also add your products to their affiliates scheme – or join other sellers affiliates schemes and start earning money that way too.

PayHip is my new selling platform love. Similar to ejunkie – although without the monthly charge – you can use it to sell your ebooks only, but I’ve been really happy with it. Again, you just set up your prices and discount codes, get your html script (in the form of a payment button that you add to your site) and PayHip then deals with all of the payment processing/order fulfilment. The charge is 5% per transaction.

 

Social Media

Hootsuite is my one stop shop when it comes to scheduling my social media. There’s a free version (which I use) or a business version which comes in at £6.99 per month. As I said in my post about improving your online presence, you shouldn’t rely on this for all of your social media communications, but for a small business short on time and resources, scheduling in some of your updates is a fantastic way of making sure your brand is promoted consistently. They also have analytics so you can track which of your content is being shared. I particularly like the fact that you can use it to set up your messages in advance for Twitter, Google +, Linked In – whatever.

small business tools
Facebook Scheduler – you can use Hootsuite to schedule in your Facebook messages too, but apparently, Facebook doesn’t like that, which I suspect means it either doesn’t promote these messages in other people’s feeds or they don’t show up properly. I’m not entirely sure but either way, I tend to schedule in my Facebook updates direct through Facebook itself (which is of course, all part of their plan). It’s easy to use and, if Facebook is your main social media platform then it’s worth doing.

small business tools
Tailwind is a social media scheduler that I’ve just discovered for Pinterest and, while I am still learning how to use it, I’m finding it really useful. Tailwind helps you to plan out and schedule the pins that you share on Pinterest in advance, allowing you to drip feed them over the course of a week or more. You can either set them up in the queue or schedule them to go out on specific days/times depending on what you need. There’s a free or paid version – I am currently getting to grips with the free version. It also provides insights and analytics so you can figure out where you’re getting the most engagement and what you’re doing right.

small business tools

Must Read: the top 12 Tools for Small Businesses to help save time & money. Please RT! Click To Tweet

 

So those are my favourite small business tools – any that you use that you think I’ve missed or that you’d like to add to the list? Or are there any here that you really don’t like?

Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear what you think.

 

4 essential tips to help you stay sane when starting a freelance business

starting a freelance business

 

Of course, there are many aspects to consider when starting your freelance business – from getting really focused on what you’re going to deliver to knowing who your customers will be, but how can you make sure that you’re not just swapping one stressful working life for another?

And, more importantly, is it possible to stay sane while starting a freelance business?

Well, here are 3 things that I did, which helped me in my first year.

 

Save 6 months expenses

I know that some people will say, that you shouldn’t leave your regular job until you have a client or two lined up, but I had no clients when I left my job, giving up a nice regular pay check, a final salary employers pension scheme (yes, really!), and a great holiday package. *gulp*

Did I fall flat on my face with no work lined up?

Clearly not.

And that’s because what I did have, was 6 months expenses saved up to help me during those months when I had little or no work.

If you’re struggling to save, read some of my essential savings tips, and think about: what you can sell; bills that you can cut; and luxuries that you can either do without or scale back on.

Keep the end goal in mind as your motivation – self employment, no commute, and being your own boss.

However, despite my lack of clients at the beginning, I have barely touched that pot of money to date. In fact, over the past 6 years I have built it up to 9 months expenses – my goal is to get it to 12 months by the end of the year – and that’s because I hit the ground running by implementing tip number 2…

 

Get into a routine

Even on day one of my new freelance business – the day when I didn’t have any clients, remember? – I got ‘ready for work’.

I got dressed, took the kids to school, then came back and switched the computer on ready for my working day.

I had a ‘to do’ list – which largely consisted of who I was going to contact that ‘might’ be a potential client – as well as aspects that I wanted to find out more about, which involved me doing some internet research and signing up for some local business courses.

What I didn’t do was think, ‘hey, I’ve got nothing on today. Who can I call for coffee?’

Don’t get me wrong. There are days when my work mojo is decidedly flat when I do need to get away from the desk and catch up with friends. It’s good to connect with others, get some new ideas and a fresh perspective, or just to charge up the batteries.

However, in the main, I try to treat every day as though I’m going to the office – and I turn up for work, regardless of how much or how little I have on.

Another tip that might help your routine is to make part of your routine actually ‘going to work’.

I know a lot of people who work from home who find it a struggle to come downstairs in the morning, have breakfast and then switch the computer on. So they get dressed, go for a paper, or even just walk around the block before coming back to the desk, as it helps them to feel as though they’ve started work.

I’ve even heard of someone who gets dressed in his suit, goes out the front door, walks around the house and comes in the back door into his home office. He finds that helps him to get ready for the workday routine (and yes, he repeats the process in reverse at the end of the day).

All of which leads me nicely on to tip number 3…

 

Keep work and home separate

I’m not going to lie. This will be difficult at times when you’re crazy busy and you want to/need to cram as much work as possible into the day. There will be days when you have to deliver a mountain of client work, get out your newsletter AND write a weeks worth of blog posts, but you should try to keep work and home life apart as much as possible if you want to stay sane.

If you don’t, I can guarantee that you will end up being just like one of those people who brings work home with them – or never leaves the office before 9pm every day.

You know the type? The ones who have relationship problems, never see their kids and never manage to have a holiday. This isn’t what you started your own freelance career for, is it?

I have done as much as possible to keep work and home separate – despite the fact they are both in the same place.

I don’t do any housework during my working hours (you’ll find this easy to believe if you ever come round).

I also have kids to pick up from school, which gives me a natural break at the end of the day, and so I switch off the computer and head out to pick them up.

When the kids were younger, I made sure that the computer remained switched off until they went to bed, but now that they don’t head upstairs until later, I tend to wait until we’ve all had dinner and their Dad is home before I head back to do some work.

And I don’t work weekends – ever.

 

Don’t forget about you

This kind of follows on from the tip above, but if you really want to stay sane and keep a perspective on what you’re doing, try not to forget about you.

In my first year, I was so focused on getting clients and making an income, I crammed work into every possible hour of the day, and ended up feeling more than a tad resentful that I had no time off, except from the school run and Mum’s Taxi service that I provide to and from activities and play dates.

Now, at the start of each week, I carve up chunks of time in my diary according to what my workload is like, and always make sure I put in time for me to go for a run at least 3 times a week.

I also make sure that I have coffee with a friend at least once a fortnight – more often if work allows. That means that I get to touch base with the real work and ensures that I don’t go completely gaga talking to the dog all day.

Sorry, Murdo, you’re cute but your conversation leaves a lot to be desired 😉

Hence the reason I only work 3 evenings a week and take weekends off – my sanity is too important for me not to. Not to mention, stressed out Mum is quite grumpy *ahem*

 

Just read 4 essential tips for staying sane while starting a freelance business. Take a look… Click To Tweet

 

What about you? What are your tips for staying sane while starting a freelance business?

Is there something that worked really well for you, or do you have tips on what to avoid doing?

I’d love to hear them, so please pop your comments in the box below – and if you know someone who is starting out, please share this post with them (the share buttons are up top).

starting a freelance business

 

Top 10 small business blogs

top 10 small business blogs

 

Today, I’m featuring the top 10 small business blogs (in my humble opinion anyway) that I go to for advice time and time again.

You don’t need me to tell you that the internet has, quite literally, created access to information that you wouldn’t have thought possible before, and these are the people that have provided me with the best advice, inspiration – and sometimes just a kick up the pants – that I have needed on my own self-employment journey.

(DISCLAIMER (of sorts): I should say that none of these guys has asked or paid me to highlight them here – they’re just all on my personal Feedly reading list and I follow them like a stalker on social media!)

 

1. If you want to work for yourself but haven’t a clue what to do or how to go about it…

Marianne Cantwell of Free Range Humans – is the go to place to help you to figure it out for yourself. Her Love Letter emails are little messages of inspiration, while her best-selling book, Be a Free Range Human, is packed full of ideas, advice and case studies of people who’ve left their ‘cubicle cage careers’ and, in the words of Marianne, gone ‘free range’. She’s full of energy, walks the talk and, if you’re in need of some positivity in your quest for self employment, Marianne is your woman. I love her fresh writing style and no nonsense attitude.

MUST READ: Trying to find ‘your thing’?

 

2. If you want a one-stop shop that is literally PACKED with information, ideas, and advice…

Look no further than byRegina. Regina’s blog is stuffed full of the sort of advice that, frankly, many others charge for. She is so generous with her knowledge, and provides more advice on starting up, getting profitable and just generally organising your freelance self, you’d be crazy not to take a look. I love the design of her site with it’s eye-catching graphics and simple to navigate info. She is my latest internet crush!

MUST READ: 12 Essential Steps to Starting Your Freelance Business

 

3. Want to figure out this online marketing/social media stuff?

Check out Alicia Cowan for brilliant, straight-talking social media clarity and tips. Writing with small businesses in mind – ie you don’t have much time or a team to manage your social media – Alicia’s advice is easy to action, easy to understand if you’re not a techie and, again, she writes with a great personal style that makes you feel like she’s your social media mate. I get her weekly email, which always has little gems of wisdom in it and recently, she was giving away free (yep, free) 15 minute consultations, which I found SOOO helpful.

MUST READ: What you really need to know about SEO

 

4. Want to go freelance or set up your own small business but are worried about losing your salary?

I’ve always been good at the ‘not running up debt’ side of things, but less good at the ‘long term planning/getting my s**t together’ side of it all. Ann Wilson AKA The Wealth Chef is the font of all knowledge when it comes to getting your finances in order and her book (which I have and would recommend) is a great starting point. Not only does she help you to kick your debt into touch; reduce how much you’re paying each month; and get a plan for long term wealth creation that suits YOU – but she also gives you the motivation for doing it all in the first place. Ann talks about everything from a kitchen related perspective – wealth pots etc. – which is a great metaphor for your finances and makes investing sound so much more less daunting than others.

MUST READ: How to Find Extra Money to Break Free of Debt

 

5. Looking for valuable small business advice and a community of experts?

One of the first sites I signed up to was Women Unlimited, the brainchild of the inimitable Julie Hall. Working with other experts in various fields – from marketing to eproducts, social media to self-confidence and everything in between, Julie and the Women Unlimited team have a fantastic resource for small businesses no matter where you’re at in your journey to self-employment. There have recently been a few changes and there’s a new Gritty Business podcast each week that tackles different issues if you prefer to listen in. Oh, and don’t be put off by the name if you’re not a woman – the advice is just as relevant.

MUST READ: Lead Magnets – what are they and why every small business should have one

 

6. Does your marketing need a kick in the a**?

Naomi Dunford is the straight-talking force behind IttyBiz – who, along with Dave Navarro, gives marketing and business development advice for any small business who wants to make a shift from ‘Meh’ to ‘Must have’. If you’re not keen on informal writing and the odd expletive, you might not like Naomi’s style – but if you don’t mind (or can overlook it) I’d thoroughly recommend checking out IttyBiz because they really know their stuff. And you can’t say fairer than that.

MUST READ: How to stop your business sucking up all your time

 

7. Want your blog to drive traffic to your business – or to be your business?

Then you need to sign up to get Jon Morrow’s Boost Blog Traffic emails. Jon holds no punches on why your blog might be failing or about how hard you will have to work to make your blog a success – but then again, why would you want your business advice to be watered down? You want to be successful, right? The content on Boost Blog Traffic is so valuable – every single post has advice that you want (and need) to put into action to make your blog – and your small business – grow. And before you think, yeah well, he’s mega successful with a $$$ blog – he didn’t start out that way and BBT is full of the lessons that he’s learned along the way.

MUST READ: 20 ways to be just another mediocre blogger nobody gives a crap about

 

8. Want to be a freelance writer?

OK, so this is a bit more specialist but if the business that you’re looking to create is freelance writing, you should check out Carol Tice at Make A Living Writing. She’s been a freelance writer for years and uses the site to share her wisdom on what you should be focusing on to build your business. With everything from why you should reconsider writing for content mills, to how to pitch your ideas, Carol provides quality content that you can’t afford not to read.  (Carol is also the Den Mother behind the Freelance Writers Den – I’m a member. It’s closed to new members at the moment but if you click on the link to the right – which is an affiliate link – you can be added to their waiting list).

MUST READ: So what exactly does a successful freelance writer do?

 

9. Want your business to have you at the heart of it?

I’m sure you’ve heard of Marie Forleo and her Q&A Tuesdays – but if not, hop on over to check her out. Phenomenally successful, Marie not only gives fabulous business advice – from getting the confidence to pitch to new clients to practical aspects like organising your time more effectively – but her business itself is a leading example of how to build a personal brand, where you ARE your business. Check her out for ideas and inspiration – and just a little bit NY sass (which is a good thing!)

MUST WATCH: What if people can learn everything I teach for free online?

 

10. If you have no time and just want to check out the expert advice on making money from blogging

Then check out Problogger. Packed with invaluable advice, what I love about this site is the sheer quantity of diverse information that they have around blogging, thanks to their regular guest posts from people who have expertise and experience in fields as diverse as writing, to SEO, to creating an e-course to starting out. There is literally something here for everyone who wants an online business – no matter what it is that you’re struggling with.

MUST READ: 3 secret weapons I used to launch my full-time blogging career

BONUS: And of course, a little plug for AG here but don’t forget to read my 6 essential tips to starting a freelance business!

Starting a small business? Check out the top 10 small business blogs Click To Tweet

 

So, that’s my top 10 small business blogs roundup. Add them into your Feedly or bloglovin’ lists – and please add Apricot Ginger too! – and get set to be inspired.

top 10 small business blogs