I’m Emma Cossey, a long-term freelancer, mum of toddler and all round digital geek, and I’m happy to welcome you to The Freelance Lifestyle.
I launched this blog in 2011, to provide freelancers with down-to-earth support, and practical advice. I wanted it to be a kind, supportive place to get tips and advice on living a great freelance life (without the constant narrative of ‘earn six figures or you’re failing’).
Since then, the community has morphed into that friendly and honest place I dreamt of visiting when I first started out as a freelancer back in 2009. The space to celebrate successes, discuss the challenging elements of freelancing, and to connect with others on the same path. Because working on your own shouldn’t mean being alone!
What’s here for you?
I’ve spent years building up my own freelance business. I’ve been a pro blogger, a social media consultant, a copywriter, a teacher… but my passion is helping people just like you take the next step. So whether you want to pick up tips from the blog, listen in to the podcast, come join the Facebook group or get some more focused 1-2-1 support with my coaching, there’s something here for you.
Find blog posts and podcasts all about freelancing and working from home, including interviews with freelancers about their daily lives, pitching tips, finance facts and lots of free resources to help you live your best freelance life
Looking for 1-2-1 support, accountability and mentoring from someone who GETS freelancing? I'm your coach! I've been freelance for over ten years, and I love supporting other freelancers to achieve their goals.
Bloggers in general read a lot of stuff. A LOT. When we’re not reading other blogs, we’re flicking through Google+, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, or have our noses in a good old’ fashioned book. It can all get a bit overwhelming at times.
This is one of the reasons I adore the Flipboard app. It’s an iPhone, iPad and Android app that collates all the content from your various social accounts, and puts them together in a flippable magazine format. I’ve written about Flipboard a few times in the past, so I won’t go into too much detail.
There have been two interesting developments with app this week. They’ve added Google+ and YouTube functions, so you can view both within the magazine format. I’ve been hoping they’d add YouTube for a while, but Google+ is a real catch for them – Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are still waiting to add that to their streams, so it’s impressive for a relatively new company to land such an opportunity. It’s a smart move by Google too. Interaction levels are low on the network, but targeting a group of switched on social media types, like Flipboard users, could be key to getting things moving again.
Are you a Flipboard fan? What do you think about these two new additions?
p.s I seem to be having some problems with YouTube on there at the moment, but they’re usually pretty quick to iron out any bugs.
This morning, I woke up, checked my emails and then opened the Flipboard app on my iPad to catch up on my favourite online spots. If you’re not familiar with Flipboard, it’s an app that brings together all the updates from your Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr, Instagram, Google Reader and from all your chosen websites and RSS feeds. Aside from being really useful, saving time and giving me a quick overview of everything at once, it’s also beautiful to view and use. As the name would suggest, you can ‘flip’ through pages, making it perfect for the iPad’s large screen. From within the app you can share content on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or various other accounts, email it to a friend, save it to read later and comment on a blog post or status without leaving the app. You can even post a status from within the app to your favourite sites. Additionally, viewing your Instagram feed is a joy in this app.
Flipboard comes to the iPhone
Have I sold you on it yet? Excellent, then you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s finally launched on the iPhone too. It’s been reworked for the small screen, so you ‘flip’ downwards rather than across. Most of the same features are there though – sharing, commenting and reading. The only think I can’t seem to do now is send a standalone tweet through it, but I tend to use Hootsuite for that anyway. This app syncs with the iPad version if you have it too, so you won’t find yourself re-reading old content.
If you struggle to keep up with your Google Reader, I’d urge you to download this app as it makes it so much cleaner and easier – especially in terms of commenting (particularly with truncated feeds).
I’ve put together a little gallery below of how various parts of it look, but it’s worth downloading it from the iTunes store (it’s free!) to try it first-hand.
Are you a Flipboard fan?
p.s Don’t forget you’ve still got a chance to win a gift from the Fairy Hobmother!
Every few months or so, I like to share which tools, courses and books I rate as a freelancer. The ones that help me grow my freelance business. Below are a few of my current favourites. A few of them are affiliate links, which I’ve marked. I only recommend things that I have used and loved myself.
Tools I use to grow my freelance business
Freeagent for my accounting and invoicing (affil link). I’ve been using Freeagent for over a year now. I love that I can quickly and easily import my bank activity, send invoices in minutes (or automate them), input my expenses straight from my iPhone and even submit your Self-Assessment to HMRC.
Buffer for social media scheduling. I’ve tried so many of the social media management tools out there, and while I still use Hootsuite’s basic (free) package for monitoring my accounts, I love Buffer for scheduling up large amounts of content in one go then analysis what does best. You can also now schedule to Pinterest, something very few other services offer.
Flipboard, Feedly and Bloglovin’. When it comes to keeping up with my favourite blogs, social networks and RSS feeds, these three are my favourites. They’re mobile-friendly, making them great for using with Buffer to schedule up content when you can’t get to your laptop.
Get It Done. I adore this app for creating long-term, short-term and daily goals, as well as reflecting on my day.
Evernote. I use Evernote every day to save documents, draft blog posts, record audio, scan any important documents and share content with team collaborators. The best advice anyone gave me about Evernote is that you have to go ‘all in’.
IFTTT. Ever since becoming a mum, I’ve been relying on IFTTT more and more to get more done through automating certain processes. IFTTT does this brilliantly. Whether it be saving emails with ‘receipt’ in the subject to a spreadsheet for me to save for my expenses or saving my favourites tweets to Pocket.
Courses I love
Kerri Walker’s DIY PR club (affil link). I’ve known Kerri for a while now, and she has been a huge inspiration to me when it comes to running a business with a baby. Kerri is also a fantastic source of information and ideas for getting your business out there and doing your own PR. Her DIY PR club is perfect for anyone who wants to know how to grow awareness of their business.
Denise Duffield Thomas bootcamp (affil link). Denise Duffield Thomas’s bootcamp is one of the most valuable money bootcamps I’ve ever taken. She tackles the kind of money blocks business women often face – whether it be a lack of confidence in their pricing, the belief that they’re not good enough to actually sell their product/service or that it’s greedy to want more. If you feel like there’s a mental block holding you back from working out how to grow your business further, or you’ve ever wobbled about charging someone for a service or product you offer, Denise’s course is a must-have. She’s got a bundle of freebies on her site too.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been freelancing full time for a client in London. As I live in Bracknell, this means I have an hour or so commute on the train each way to and from work. I’m seemingly incapable of just relaxing and doing nothing, so I’ve been trying to be as efficient with my time as possible.
Here are just a few of the ways I get the most out of my commute – but I’d love to hear your tips too! Leave me a comment with how you get the most out of your commute.
Apps are your friends, people. At this very moment, I’m typing up this post on the WordPress app. Before that, I caught up on my favourite blogs through BlogLovin, read through my social media feeds on Flipboard, checked my mailing list subscribers in MailChimp and checked my emails. I also save posts and articles to Pocket to read through when I’m offline/on the train. The more labour-heavy tasks wait until I’m at my desk, but this gets me started.
Train or bus commutes are a great chance to brain dump all my thoughts and organise them. I use the Wunderlist app to note down everything I have on my mind. For the tasks that require action, I add a sub-task. For those that I can do bugger all about, I leave it or tick off. The result is that I arrive at work knowing exactly where I can start, and less like my head is a beehive of ideas and worries.
Do you struggle to find time to meditate? Or fancy giving it a try? If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on your commute, now is the time to plug your earphones in. Try the Calm.com app, which gives you 2 min/5 min/10 min etc options. Don’t worry, no one will notice (unless you start throwing some ‘oooohms’ out there).
(Pod)Cast your worries aside!
I suffer from quite a bit of social anxiety when travelling. Plugging into my podcast collection really helps take my mind off it and de-stress. Old Desert Island Disc ones work well for this, but I have a LOT of podcasts on my iPhone, ready for me to listen.
Organise a catch up chat
I have to get up quite early to head into my current client contract – often leaving the house before 6:30am. If you work with any other early birds, why not utilise the time by organising a 7:30am chat with them over the Skype app or G+ app? Text-based conversations mean it’s not the end of the world if your signal drops out for a minute.
Plan your escape!
If you’re employed by someone else, but pining for the freelance life, why not use this time to fully research your options, put together a plan, and start making some contacts!
So, over to you! What do you do during your commute to and from work?
A lot of freelancers I know, myself included, have a reputation for being surgically attached to their smartphones. The beauty and curse of being freelance is that you’re never far from a couple of taps from work. I’m not entirely sure how I’d even manage my business without my trusty iPhone, and the bundle of apps on it.
When it comes to apps, I have a LOT on my phone. There are a few in particular that are great for maintaining a great freelance lifestyle.
In no particular order…
Pomodoro – Struggling to concentrate? Pomodoro is an app based on the popular Pomodoro productivity method. Set the timer for 20 minutes, then focus entirely on the task in hand. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this!
Mailbox – The latest mail app on the block, this is an amazing app if you use Gmail. With a couple of swipes, you can delete, archive, file or schedule a reminder for later. A vital tool for hitting Inbox Zero.
Bloglovin’– Now Feedburner has announced its closure, a lot of people have jumped over to BlogLovin’. I’m still mainly using Flipboard, but I really like Bloglovin’ for finding new and interesting blogs.
Podcasts – I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work, and Podcasts is my go-to app for subscribing and listening to them. They’ve recently added a function to create playlists of subscriptions – so I can have my meditation podcasts in one list, comedy in another and lifestyle ones in another.
Dropbox – I really couldn’t function without cloud-storage app Dropbox. It desperately needs tidying up though…
Hootsuite – For tweeting on the go, Hootsuite is a must-have. I look after several different accounts at one time, so Hootsuite is brilliant for this. Plus the scheduling comes in handy.
Wunderlist– I make dozens of To Do lists, which is why I love Wunderlist. Freelancers tend to spin several plates at once, so Wunderlist is great for keeping track of several projects and what needs to be done.
PeoplePerHour– The People Per Hour app works with the site to enable you to bid on jobs or tasks on the site. I often use this to browse late at night, so I can bid before others.
Journey Pro – Freelancing and travelling goes hand in hand. While I prefer to stick close to home, when I do need to go out I like to use Journey Pro, to plan my journey from start to finish. Particularly handy in London, where I always get lost.
GridDiary– This simple, but rather gorgeous-looking, app asks you a few questions at the end of each day. Questions cover who you’ve met, what you’ve achieved, what you’ve done for family and how you felt the day went. It’s basically a mini journal. When life passes so quickly, it’s handy to have an app that lets you take note of the little, important things.
Flipboard – Ah, the app iPads were made for. This is usually one of the first apps I open in the morning, to catch up on my social networks, RSS feeds, Instagram and YouTube. It turns all of these into a magazine style format, so you can flip through it while having your breakfast. You can also now create your own Flipboard magazines of content that others can subscribe to.
PayPal– Some of my clients prefer to use PayPal to pay me, so I often use the app to transfer into my bank account (or leave it there for my next eBay spending mission)
SatNav2/Skobbler – I’ve tried many sat navs on the iPhone and iPad. Google and Apple’s map apps have both failed me since the latest update, but SatNav 2 is consistently brilliant. I also really like Waze, which is user-driven – like a sat nav social network.
Spotify– Every freelancer needs a soundtrack to their day. Spotify lets me stream music quickly and easily – but it’s the collaborative element I love. I have a couple of shared playlists with other freelancers, filled with music to cheer us up, get us knuckling down or chilling out on a Friday afternoon.
Mailchimp – When it comes to newsletter tools, Mailchimp is an easy favourite. While the Mailchimp app doesn’t let me create newsletters (yet…?), I can view reports for opening rates, click rates etc.
Audible– Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of the audiobook marketplace Audible. Until recently, the app has been a little disappointing, but a recent update has made it easier to listen to audiobooks and track how long you’ve spent listening to them. My only complaint is that you still can’t browse and download audiobooks from the app.
IM+ Pro – Skype and Google Chat are my versions of the office water cooler. I don’t tend to use Skype that often for video, but it’s great for text chat – plus it’s easy to look back on previous conversations.
Lift– An app to help create and stick to habits, whether it be hitting Inbox Zero by the end of the night or necking a green smoothie in the morning.
Calm.com – I’ve got a bunch of meditation podcasts and app on my iPhone, but Calm.com is my current favourite. It’s super simple – choose a background scene and sound, then relax as the app talks you through a meditation session. It’s great if, like me, you’re not really into the spiritual “ommmmmmm” side of things.
Happier – Well, this is a little slice of joy. In my ongoing quest to be more mindful and appreciative, I was recommended this app for sharing daily happy moments. It challenges you to share three happy things each day, with an optional photo. It’s social (what isn’t these days?), so you can view and like other people’s happy moments too. Sometimes, us freelancers are a modest bunch, so it’s nice to have a place to share what things have made us happy.
What apps do you use all the time for freelancing?
How do you keep on track of all your favourite blogs? Email? RSS feed? Chances are, most blog fans will be reading them in something like Google Reader, which gathers together all the updates from your subscribed blogs. It’s quicker, easier and simpler to read that way. It should look something like the image above.
If you’re a blogger, you can choose how your blogs displays in someone’s reader. Some people prefer to show the entire post, while others prefer a short teaser, to entice the reader into visiting the blog for the full content.
Personally I read blogs through Flipboard (which you can see an example of on the left, with a lovely post from Temporary Secretary), which allows me to read a full post, comment and share without leaving the app. But when I solely used Google Reader, post summaries were a little annoying. I rarely clicked through, unless the content was particularly interesting or I wanted to leave a comment.
But I see the benefits of only using a summary too. It can encourage more people to visit your site, meaning page views should rise along with comments.
I’d love to know what you think though, in the poll below.
I’d also love to hear from those who use summary RSS feeds. Do you find you get a good click through rate? Is it better than when you display the full RSS feed?
It seems like a post pops up in my Google Reader every week raving about the benefits of posting on your blog every day. And I completely agree with them. During the 30 Day Blog Challenge (which you can see here), I saw my traffic and subscribers rise substantially.
But posting every day is hard. I write for eight or nine blogs, and I post on half of them daily. On top of that, I work three days a week as a social media and web co-ordinator, so finding the time to post daily on my own blog tends to slip down on the priority list.
However, I’ve been working on a few ways to increase my posts on this site, at least to several times a week.
Build an online scrapbook for ideas
I often come across a post, image, infographic or video that I’d love to feature on the site…then forget all about it a day later. Now, I use Read It Later (a toolbar addon that allows you to save a page quickly to read later) and Springpad (to grab all sorts of urls and media for later use). This way, I save time and collect lots of potential post material.
Both of these tools have iPhone apps too, and Springpad also has an iPad app.You can also view your Read It Later items on the personalised magazine app Zite for the iPad, and save items from Flipboard onto RIL.
Create a scheduled spreadsheet
Popping all your posts into a spreadsheet is a bit like unloading your brain into something a little more organised. You can see what you need to publish that day, which gives you goals and targets to work towards. If you’re using WordPress, the WordPress Editorial Calender is brilliant for this. Otherwise, a simple Google Doc/Excel doc will do the job nicely.
Set themed days
If you find you’re lost for inspiration sometimes, it’s worth having themed days for your blog posts. For example, every Friday could be the day you do a mini-summary of your recent blog posts/activities, and Silent Sunday is also a popular theme (and quick too!)
Posts don’t need to be long
For ages, I’ve been fighting the mindset that a good post has to be a long post. But some of my most popular posts are simple infographics, videos and images. Variety is key, so a mix of long and short blog posts makes your content look interesting and stops you going a bit mental about the idea of writing a 500-word post every day. You might also want to consider video blogging.
Write on the go
Most of us have smart phones now, and with tablets becoming more and more popular, there are more opportunities to write on the go. Even if you don’t have the tech, you can still jot down any ideas or draft posts when you’re on the go. This is one of the few reasons why I like getting the train – it’s the perfect time to write a distraction-free post.
Do you post every day? Any tips you’d like to share?
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