Category: personal development

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?

 

 

 

7 Resolutions to Get Your Freelance Business in Shape

productivity tips for freelancers

 

It’s fair to say that, enjoyable though the summer was, having the kids off school for 7 weeks has broken my work mojo.

Not only do I have to catch up work that I just had to park due to time constraints – but I also need to get back into the working mindset in general. I have to admit that I’m still a bit in holiday mode. Am I alone in that?

Now that the little darlings been back for a couple of weeks, and we’ve figured out timetables and after school activities (of which there seem to be more each year!) I thought the time was ripe to set myself some work resolutions to help me to get back into the flow of work, routines, and general productivity.

 

1. Batching Work – I already do a bit of batching when it comes to writing, and I find this a really productive way of working. As I’m writing posts for this blog, as well as guest posts and other client work, it’s really useful to have time dedicated to researching, drafting and then writing for all of these writing jobs at once. I find it helps me to get more done than when I plan and write them all separately.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to try batching more of my similar activities to see if that helps productivity in other areas too. I’ve blocked off time in the calendar for writing, research, promotional activities and admin – so let’s see how I get on with it. (So far, so good I have to say).

Batching tasks can improve your productivity - give it a try! Click To Tweet

 

2. Social Media Spring Clean – one of my top tips for staying ahead of the social media game is scheduling. (And you can get my free Twitter Scheduler here if you’d like a kickstart yourself).

I use Hootsuite to help me to batch and plan my social media for the coming week – you can read more detail about how I do that here – but it’s fair to say that I was running this in a very reduced way over the summer.

Now we’re at the start of the new school year, I’ve blocked off specific times in my diary every day (yes, that’s right, every day) to catch up with my social media activity* – as well as a regular hour each Friday to batch updates for the week ahead. And it feels good to finally be getting ahead rather than constantly playing catch up like I did in July and August.

* Once you have a plan in place and a system for managing your social media activity, you only need to dedicate between 10 to 30 minutes per day – more if you have time – to keep it all ticking over and your profile ‘out there’).

 

3. Drink More Water – I survive on cups of decaff tea, which is all well and good but usually means that I’m lucky if a glass of pure water actually passes my lips. The only days I seem to drink enough water are the days that I go out running, so I’ve set myself the goal of drinking a litre of water every day. (Not doing so well on this one so far – but I’ll get there).

We need to drink water to stay healthy, productive – and apparently, beautiful (it’ll take more than water for me).

I’m going to implement some of the tips here for getting more H2O each day.

productivity tips for freelancers

4. Eating Less Carbs – yep, I am also guilty of living on carbs. Toast, cereal, crisps, oatcakes. Too many carbs can lead to a bit of a post-lunch slump – which is hardly great in terms of productivity.

I should say that I’m going to cut back on the bad carbs (i.e. the ones I like the most) but still eat good carbs – like oats, vegetables, fruit and rice.

Almonds are currently perched on my desk uneaten. I will try to eat them soon though!

 

5. Get Up Earlier – I already use my spare hour in the morning to check emails, respond to any that are urgent, and check social media updates – which means that I feel confident that at least I’ve caught up on anything that’s come in overnight.

However, I read this post yesterday about getting up at 5am (yes, really) and how it can increase your productivity and just generally, improve your day .It’s inspired me to try to do the same.

I have to admit that I felt exhausted just reading it, but I figure it will give me so much more productive time when the house is relatively quiet, that it might just be worth a try. And I really do need to stop working on the Mac until midnight as research shows that it interrupts your sleep (which might explain why I feel so tired).

productivity tips for freelancers

6. Rule of 3 – I already do this to a certain extent but, over the summer and since the kids have gone back to school, I have slipped up a bit.

So, pen at the ready, Outlook calendar open, I have blocked off each day into 3 main categories: Promotion, Writing (both of which I do every day) and/or Admin, Planning, Research depending on what the priorities are.

Promotion covers a multitude of activities – from social media updates, to contacting potential clients while writing includes client work, as well as this blog. The Rule of 3 really does work – so I am determined to get back into the flow.

productivity tips for freelancers

7. Me Time! – going for a run, seeing friends and just generally chilling out were not key activities over the summer.

Ferrying the kids around, acting as referee (an increasingly common activity as the weeks went on) and arranging play dates were the main focus.

I only managed 1 run a week. I went out with my girlfriends once. And I most definitely didn’t chill out.

Taking time out and recharging the batteries is essential if you want to stay productive.

Armed with my trusty calendar, I’ve blocked off time in the diary to go out on 3 runs per week. I’ve just booked myself into adult beginners ballet (I’m not a beginner but given that the last time I donned a pair of ballet shoes I was about 15, I think it’s fair to say, I’m not going to be that good either).

And – after my hour of social media scheduling on a Friday – the rest of the morning is free for coffee with friends. My sanity will (hopefully) be restored. Not to mention, I might lose a few pounds (from the exercise NOT the coffees). Perfect timing in preparation for putting them all back on again over C… (no, it’s September, I won’t say it).

 

So that’s it. Enough to be getting on with and nothing too difficult. In fact, lots of things I should be doing anyway if I want to stay productive – and sane.

 

How are you getting back into your work flow after the summer?

 

 

Silence is Golden

The title is intended to reflect the fact that there has been an overwhelming amount of tumbleweed floating across my blog of late.

Or in other words, it’s been less of a blog and more of a static site as I’ve struggled to find the time to write anything.

Does anyone else find that their blog falls to the bottom of the pile when other ‘priorities’ compete for your attention?

Given that the whole reason for starting the blog was that I want to write more it’s kind of ironic that I’ve written less recently thanks to work, kids, life. The usual…

So far, so frustrating.

However, one of the areas that has been taking my attention is to do with self improvement, personal development – call it what you will. In fact, in the quest to figure out what the hell I want to do when I grow up, I seem to have gone into personal development overdrive (and I should point out that despite all of this, I’m no closer to that one).

To the point where I’m beginning to think that actually, in spite of saying I want to ‘find my purpose’, I’ve been spending so long doing different courses and reading books that I’m in fact, completely distracting myself from doing anything! I am sure a life coach (or a psychiatrist!) would have a field day with me.

However,  in the interests of seeking clarity, I did sign up to Marianne Cantwell’s Free Range Festival (which is currently running – and if you’re trying to figure out your own ‘why’ her blog is worth a read, as are her Free Range Friday Love Letters). So far, I’ve been inspired by Shaa Wasmun, Julie Hall and Barbara Winter – to the point where my head is full of ideas.  My worry is, when the heck am I going to put them into action?

The second course that I’ve done recently was actually less of a course and more of a book: Ann Wilson’s The Wealth Chef – all about getting a handle on your money and making it work for you. I’ve read LOADS about this topic, particularly since setting up my own business 6 years ago and I’ve tried to cut costs. However, Ann’s system is the first that I’ve followed that doesn’t seem like you have to totally do without the little pleasures in life, as she very much advocates saving along side a little bit of spending – so it’s actually becoming fun! (And her cooking anecdotes appeal to my love of food!)

I’ve also recently completed a writing course with The Writers’ Workshop, which I have loved – and which has fed into my writing desires. Of course, the minute the course finished I have to confess that my writing ground to a halt and the book that I have started planning is very much still in a notebook (well, actually a number of notebooks) and my head rather than looking remotely like becoming a proper manuscript any time soon.

Perhaps I really need to go on a course in helping to deal with procrastination? Or maybe I just need to stop improving and start doing (but improving at the same time)?

Watch this space…