Freelance General

  • Five people every freelancer needs in their life

    freelance support network

    Edit: This is a blog post from 2011, updated in 2018. 

    A good support structure is so important when you’re a freelancer, or you’re self-employed, particularly when you’re starting out. Having that freelance support network structure can help you get through the tough times, give you the inspiration you need when you’re starting a new project and help you celebrate your successes.

    I’ve come up with five types of people you need in your support network, who I’ve described below. What do you think? Any you would add?

    The Supporter
    The Supporter is the person that is always there, through the rough times and the good times. This is likely to be your partner, parents or your oldest best friend. The Supporter always has your back, and stops you feeling out of control when everything gets a bit much. They might not know your industry or understand your job, but they’ll understand how important it is to you.

    The Energiser
    The Energiser is the person that has a bundle of enthusiasm for your new idea or project, and helps motivate you to really push forward with it. In the company of an Energiser, you might find yourself trying or doing things you’d never normally have the guts to try.

    The Critic
    While The Energiser is a great friend to have, it can often be dangerous to listen to them alone. Which is where The Critic comes in. This is usually someone a little older and wiser, who can give you positive criticism  of your project or plan, to help you spot any flaws early on. My Dad usually fulfils this role, although previous employers and colleagues are also often Critics.

    Approaching The Critic with a project close to your heart is one of the scariest things to do, but you’ll appreciate their honesty long-term.

    The Alien
    The Alien is the person in your group that has nothing to do with your industry, and doesn’t really get it. You need an Alien in your group for two reasons.

    • On a professional note, if The Alien doesn’t understand your project or plan, you know you need to work on making the pitch or business plan clearer. Same goes for a blog post or design. Having that outsider eye can help you see how the perception of your project will be to everyone else.
    • On a personal note, spending time with The Alien usually means you don’t talk about work much. Which, as discussed in a previous blog post, is always a good thing occasionally. Talking shop all the time can be boring for others. I’m totally guilty of doing this at times. It’s only when I see the husband’s eyes glaze over that I realise I need to change the subject.

    The Role Model
    The Role Model is, unsurprisingly, the person you aspire to be in five, 10 or 20 years time. Whether you’ve got yourself a mentor or coach, you’re in touch with an old employer you admire, or you’re aiming to take over the family business, a Role Model can be a well of information and advice.

    You can find lots of lovely people that fit these categories over in the Facebook Group. Come join us! 

    Recognise any of these in your support group (or recognise yourself)? Got any more to add? Let me know in the comments.

  • How to set your freelance goals for 2017

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    Happy New Year!

    It’s time to wave goodbye to the mince pies (well, once I’ve finishing the last two in the pack), and start setting some freelance goals to make 2017 your best freelancing yet.

    Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Here are the steps I take to set freelance goals and keep to them.

    Step 1: Review the last year

    Yes, that’s a bit of a drag after the s**tshow that was 2016. But I promise it’s not all bad. Do you have a list of freelance goals you set in January 2016? Or a dream board you created on Pinterest with all your aims? Dig it out. You might be surprised to see how many of those things you have achieved, barely noticing.

    Next up, write a list of all your achievements from 2016. Did you land a dream client? Conquer your fear of networking (even if it still means you have to sit in the car before and take a few deep breaths)? How much did you earn? Did you manage to weave some self-care and maybe even a holiday into your freelance life? Note it all down. How does that feel? You’ve done a lot more than you thought this year eh? I feel like I’ve been struggling to get balance with parenting and freelancing, but looking back I’ve achieved more than I thought.

    Step 2: Where do you want to be this time next year?

    Close your eyes. (Actually, read the next bit, then close your eyes.) Imagine yourself in a year’s time. What have you achieved? Where are you? What are you doing? How happy are you? What steps have you taken to get there? Now open your eyes and scribble it all down. Throw it up on a Pinterest board if that works better for you, or a cut and paste physical dream board. This is the first step in teasing out some freelance goals.

    Visualisation is actually a really strong tool I use daily. I imagine how the day will go, and it helps me work out how to organise my day to achieve that visualisation. It doesn’t always go entirely to plan, but it does make me feel more organised and happier.

    Step 3: Start creating freelance goals

    Ok, so you know what worked for you last year, and you know where you want to be at the end of this year. So, how do we get there? Goal setting. There are a couple of ways you can do this:

    • Create a Trello board. This is my preferred method. I brain dump all my ideas in a Trello board note, then start to sort through them and break them down into goals which I assign to each month. I also have board notes for content ideas for my newsletter, blog and podcast which I can slot in to complement those goals each month. So, for example, if my freelance goal was to launch a new product, I’d break it down into all the smaller tasks as a checklist, create content ideas that complement it, and add it to the note for that month. Video coming soon for how I do this! You could also use Evernote to do this, or Asana now they’ve created a new Trello-style board.
    • Go old school. Grab a pen and paper and write down all of those goals from your visualisation. Whether it’s gaining a new client each month, earning enough to buy a new car or adding more self-care into your routine. Then break them down into smaller tasks. When you break down a task, I find it useful to estimate how long each smaller task will take, so it’s easier to work out where it might slot in. Then add it into your diary, planner or bullet journal.

    Are your goals SMART?

    The key to goal setting is to make them SMART. Each goal has to pass the SMART test. Is it:

    • Specific. ‘Earn more’ is a bit wishy washy. How much more do you want to earn a month? And how?
    • Measurable. This is easier with some goals (like earnings or blog traffic) than it is with others (increase happiness with more self-care), but it is possible. With examples like the latter, measure how you feel now, against how you felt before on a scale of 1-10.
    • Achievable. Can you do it? It would lovely to earn that glorified ‘six figures’ but is it possible if you’re only working a day a week on a low fee? Make sure the goal is achieveable. Clue: This is why we break down goals into steps, to make them more achievable.
    • Relevant. Does it feed into your main goals? How will this goal improve your life? Sometimes, we create freelance goals based on what we feel we should do, rather than what we want to do or could do. Make sure this is YOUR goal, and that it’s reasonable and realistic.
    • Time-based. Set yourself a deadline! The clearer your deadlines are, the more likely you are to achieve a goal.

    Step 4: Do you need accountability?

    This is a genuine question. Not everyone needs accountability. 2016 was the year that I realised that, as a Questioner on Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz (you can find the link to it here if you want to know what you are), accountability can actually take the wind out of my sales, and sometimes quietly working on a project for a while first can work better. Consider whether getting accountability on a goal will help or hinder you. If you do want accountability, make sure you’re in my Facebook group, which you can join by signing up to the newsletter, where we do an accountability thread every Monday morning.

    Step 5: Don’t forget to celebrate the wins

    This is incredibly important. How often do you jump from goal to goal, never really celebrating the wins and feeling a bit…meh? Celebrating a win is as important as setting a goal, and brings closure and joy to the task. Here are a few ways you can celebrate:

    • An hour or two off work to binge watch Netflix/meet a friend for lunch/read
    • Done really well in a meeting? One of my favourite celebration suggestions is Emma-Louise Trotter’s suggestion of taking yourself off to a nice wine bar and ordering a glass of fizz.
    • Take a long bath filled with your favourite treats
    • If it’s a biggie, treat yourself to that tech you’ve had your eye on. Don’t forget, if it’s for your business, you can add it to your expenses
    • Oh hi there pretty dress! Go buy that perfect dress you pinned to your treat list on Pinterest (if you don’t have a treat list on Pinterest, I highly recommend getting on).
    • Share it online!

    Step 6: Check in with your goals regularly

    As part of my Miracle Morning routine, I check my Goals Pinterest board daily and my Trello board to plan out my day. It’s important to check in regularly, whether it’s daily or weekly, to keep you focused and on deadline. It’s particularly important on those days when imposter syndrome kicks in, or when you’ve got low energy. If you’ve broken your goals down into small, bite size tasks, there should be small tasks you can slot in each day, so you’re moving closer to your goals every day.

    Useful Resources

    • The Awesome Marketing Planner (affiliate) is my favourite planner for all my marketing and social media freelance goals.
    • If improving your health is one of your goals, Laura at Wholeheartedly Healthy has some great tips (I love her suggestion of swapping the term ‘goal’ for ‘intention’ if the former makes you feel icky).
    • If self-care is a priority, I’ve got a post coming up on that! But I really like the Blurt’s Buddy Boxes for reminding me to take time out to look after myself.
    • Curious about how to use Trello for your business? Here’s a quick overview of how I use it.
    • Want to know more about what drives you? You can catch my free podcast series on Transactional Drivers for freelancers (those mind monkeys that kick in when you’re feeling stressed) and how you can use them to your advantage.
    • If learning is your bag, I have a bunch of free e-courses right here for freelancers.

    So, those are my top tips for creating and sticking to your freelance goals. Do you have any suggestion to add? 

  • A few updates, include FREE courses for freelancers

    Hello lovely freelancers!

    This is a very quick blog post to let you know about a couple of things coming up here in The Freelance Lifestyle community.

    All of my courses for freelancers are now free!

    First up, I’ve made the decision to make all of the courses in my Freelance Lifestyle school completely free. The main reason I’m doing this is because I want to make freelancing accessible for as many people as possible, so making my courses for freelancers free is the best way I can do that. But also, it’s nearly Christmas *throws glitter and free courses at you*

    Here are the five courses for freelancers currently available for free.

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    • The 30 Days To Freelance Lifestyle course (this is perfect for newbies, it’ll take you through your first month, from setting up your business to braving networking events)
    • Four Weeks Of Freelance Habits
    • How To Pitch For New Clients
    • Five Days To Boost Your Freelance Confidence
    • Five Days To Step Up Your Freelance Business

    They’re all available on The Freelance Lifestyle School.

    The Facebook Group

    If you’re a member of the Facebook Group, we’ve got a couple of things coming up. Firstly, a Secret Santa (y’know, one where you swap a gift with a lovely freelancer rather than dodgy Bob from Accounts with the coffee breath in your old 9-5). The cut off is the 30th November to get involved. If you’re not already in the group, all you need to do is sign up for the free newsletter.

    I’m also going to offer something exclusively to group members from Friday, so keep an eye out then!

    That’s it! Have a lovely week, as we move into the final month of 2016.

    Em x

  • The one trick I use to kick Imposter Syndrome

    Imposter Syndrome. Heard of it? If you’re freelance, you’ve almost certainly felt it. It’s the little gremlin in your head which says things like:

    Are you serious? Do you really think people will pay you to do that?

    Raise your prices? No one will pay you that!

    Oh god, look what my super-awesome, glossy, productive-as-hell competition is doing! I’m such a failure.

    Someone is going to find out that I’ve been lucky so far, and I’m actually totally rubbish. They’re going to tell everyone how rubbish I really am. 

    I firmly believe that Imposter Syndrome is hugely influenced by social media. Every time we jump online, we’re bombarded with reminders that other people are doing so much more (or so we think) and we’re left feeling like we’re lagging behind. We’re left feeling like we can’t compete, and that we’re failures.

    How to deal with imposter syndrome?

    The problem lies in the assumptions. When you compare how you’re doing to others in your industry, you’re likely to make some of the following assumptions:

    • They’re a financial success. Launching a course/offer/product doesn’t mean they’re doing well. And trust me, freelancers and online entrepreneurs are amazing at hyping and promoting. But sometimes that involves smoke and mirrors – and a big launch doesn’t guarantee money in the bank.
    • People share everything. Occasionally I come away from a Facebook group where lots of people have promoted the exciting things they’ve achieved, and I feel, well….shit. But they’re only sharing the good stuff. They’re not sharing that shouty email from a tricky client. They’re not talking about diving into their overdraft as they chase unpaid invoices. They’re not talking about working at 10pm on a Sunday and having a crying fit because the laptop has frozen and there’s a workload that needs finishing in order to be able to take a couple of days off. They’re not talking about how their child has suddenly refused to go down for their naps, and you’re panicking as you were relying on them to hit a deadline (yup, that’s me). Social media, generally, only offers the highlights.
    • That they do it alone. Chances are, they’ve got a solid team behind them, and outsource the tricky stuff like Facebook Ads to someone who knows how to get the results. I’m not saying they haven’t worked their asses off – but don’t compare yourself to a whole team of people.
    • That they’re at the same point as you. No one has gone through the exact same journey as you, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you compare yourself to someone who is months or years ahead of you, or has bundles of other resources that you can’t currently access. Stop comparing your beginning to other’s middles.
    • They’re better than me. Are they? Or are they just louder and prouder?
    • They can charge more than me, as they’re worth it. Why are they worth it, and you’re not? What have they got that you haven’t? If they have got something more, this is an opportunity to build your experience and skills. But there’s a good chance it’s confidence and making a lot of noise about what they offer that gives them the edge.

    Whenever you feel like you’re overwhelmed with how much others are doing, grab a pen and paper. Write down all the assumptions you’re making. Then challenge them. Are they really true? And if you really believe they are, how would you prefer to feel about it? Focusing on how you’d prefer to feel will empower you to make the changes you want to see, rather than dwelling on the differences you perceive.

    What assumptions do you make about others in your industry?

  • 10 Ways To Be A Productive Freelancer

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    “God, I could never work from home. I’d just watch daytime TV and sleep in all the time! I’d find it so boring.”

    As all home-based freelancers know, freelancing requires a sh*tload of self-motivation, discipline and drive. When you work on a daily or hourly rate, you really can’t afford to coast. And boredom? HA. I haven’t been bored in nearly seven years – there’s always something to do.*

    *Although sometimes that thing to do is done in front of a catch up episode of Made In Chelsea. Well, no one’s perfect are they?

    Getting into your productivity groove isn’t always easy though, and some days it’s downright impossible. Especially when you have other things to worry about too, like childcare, finding new clients and doing your accounts. So, how can you become a more productive freelancer?

    Try some of these ten tips:

    1. Write a To Do list 
      Every evening, I write a To Do list for the next day in my Wunderlist app. Often it’s a brain dump of everything I’m worried about – and sometimes those are things carried over from the previous day. But brain dumping everything makes it easier to work out what to tackle the next day – plus I can do it in bed so I sleep better that night.
    2. Choose your frog
      I’m a big fan of the Eat That Frog theory. Essentially, if you had to eat a big, ugly, warty frog at some point today, when is the best time to do it? First thing – otherwise you’re dreading it all day. Once you’ve got your To Do list, choose your frog and get it over with.
    3. Choose three priorities
      After choosing my frog, I choose three priorities for things to do that day. These are things that will benefit my business, so things like pitching for new work, doing my accounts or finishing that report so I can invoice a client.
    4. Split your days into chunks
      I’m a big fan of splitting my day into workable chunks. At the moment, with the delights of pregnancy and a nice dose of SPD (that’s a pelvis that’s loosened up early thanks to some over-eager hormones), I’m finding that mornings are great for any physical jobs like face-to-face coaching or meetings. By the afternoon my body is out of order but my brain is still going, so I use this time for writing and emails. If you’re in the peak of health, you may find that there are certain times when you work best – perhaps early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes splitting your day into chunks – two hours for writing, two hours for pitching, two hours for admin, one hour for email etc, keeps you focused and on target.
    5. Work when you’re most effective
      As I mentioned in point 4, some people work best at different times. I’m all about the early mornings. 6am-2pm is my zone, with a couple of hours in the evening if needs be. Other people find eight hours after lunch is their perfect time. Unless your clients expect you to work at specific times, the best thing to do is to see what time you naturally wake up – and work with that.
    6. Eat right!
      You know as well as I do that you are what you eat – and if your main meals centre around sugar and refined carbs, you’re probably not going to be firing on all cylinders. Have a peek at Wholeheartedly Healthy for some much better ideas of fun, delicious and easy food you can have at home.
    7. Take time away
      Now, I’m not the best at taking time off. In fact, I have a week off coming up – and there’s a good chance I’ll be doing some blogging and mind mapping. Time off is essential though. If you find time off a struggle, make sure you get some accountability – book lunch with a friend, sign yourself up for a workout, or visit someone a few miles away. You’re more likely to take time off if you have to physically leave the house – and more often than not it will lead to you coming back to your business better than ever.
    8. Take time to evaluate
      Constantly powering through is fine, but you need to take time away to see the big picture. One great way to do this is through speaking to a mentor or a coach who can help you spot any issues that you’re too close to see.
    9. Outsource
      This should be way further up on the list. Outsourcing is a really, really good way to be more productive. It’s easy to get stuck on certain details as a freelancer, which can end up blocking you from really achieving your goals. Outsourcing certain tasks to a VA or on sites like Fiverr.com may be a small initial cost, but the benefits you’ll reap far exceed it.
    10. Finally, choose your projects wisely
      Don’t waste your energy on projects or clients that drain you. Life really is too short, and it will reduce your productivity levels. Choose your projects wisely, learn when to say no to the wrong project and when to listen to your gut.

    How do you stay productive?

  • 5 ways to use tech to stay sane

    Jo-GiffordHappy Monday everyone. We’re kicking off this week with a guest post about how tech can help you stick to those January resolutions, from Jo Gifford, digital media genius and lovely tweeter.

    Have your New Year’s resolutions already faded into the ether? Is your willpower for that diet, marathon training plan, novel writing goal or general world domination starting to dwindle?

    Go easy on yourself. Let tech do the legwork for you to help your productivity, information overload, focus and, in general, sanity. Reduce the noise, step away from the screen, and re-discover your goals with some free time to actually do them.

    Ready?

    1. Automate daily habits and tasks

    Taking the monotony out of daily repetitive tasks frees up both your time and inclination to do something else.

    • For daily digests of RSS feeds, newsletters or hot topics to keep abreast of, set up filters using IFTTT to aggregate them all somewhere that works for you, be it Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox or wherever else tickles your fancy. You can browse and comment, share or act on anything in your own time in a more organised way.

    • For habits and daily activities, Routines is a lovely little app with friendly, easy to set reminders to tick off and feel a sense of direction and accomplishment. Set the reminders to vary how strict the timeframe of the action is and how aggressively you wish to be reminded, and keep on track with getting things done.

    2. Reduce inbox overwhelm

    Inbox overwhelm is the antithesis of sanity and productivity. By setting up some smart tech systems and habits you can step away from the inbox and break the reliance on instant response requirements and general “noise”.

    • Scoop is an excellent add on for Gmail that literally scoops up promotional emails and smartly presents them to you in one daily digest, not unlike an inbox VA.

    • Sanebox is another excellent option which allows emails to be diverted from your inbox and re-presented to you when you need to see them again, dictated by you with a simple click to file the email. Lovely.

    • Use IFTTT to collate reading material or emails you need to respond to or read later by storing them in relevant files which dump them into corresponding Evernote notebooks or a Google Docs location.

    • Canned responses by Gmail in combination with Sanebox and IFTTT filters allows set responses to be sent out to emails with certain criteria, filed, ordered and re-presented to you when you need.

    • Awayfind lets you step away from the inbox safe in the knowledge that if the urgent information you need to react to comes in, you can set filters for a text message instant alert.

    How does that inbox seem now you are in charge?

    3. Get smart with social

    Setting up smart social media sharing workflows is another sanity saving trick.

    • Buffer is an excellent resource for sharing content in one dedicated social media portion of time, with the updates flowing throughout the day to avoid an obvious dump of information on your feed.

    • Collating tweets or updates from users relevant to your niche that you need to follow can be easily set up in IFTTT straight to a spreadsheet. Simply read, paste and click to schedule relevant content for your audience throughout the day while you are free to pursue those lifelong dreams…or, indeed, get on with some work.

    • Set up workflows to collate and file tweets you favourite and instagram pics you like to store information and resources for an appropriate time so that social interaction time doesn’t lead you on a bottomless pit of web browsing.

    See? Social doesn’t have to be a time vacuum.

    4. Go paperless

    Living without a constant pile of paperwork and general “Stuff” is a breath of fresh air. Use Evernote to photograph sketches, letters, business cards, Post It Notes, kids artwork, invitations, and any other ephemera which clutters up your desk.

    Free yourself from mountains of letters and find your way around information so much easier.

     

    5. Talk to yourself

    What if you could be productive even in the outside world, away from the screen? Taking time out to enjoy fresh air or a change of scenery doesn’t mean ideas can’t be captured on the go; dictate memos, blog posts and emails into Evernote to transcribe later, or use Dragon Dictation to record your thoughts and ideas to be dealt with when you plug back in – whenever you choose that to be.

    Wishing you a productive, sane and tech powered 2014.

    Jo Gifford

    Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, illustrator & creativity addict; she teaches creative ideas for online content creators, business owners & self employed mums via her Access All Areas programme and one to one sessions.

    Find her blogging over on Dexterous Diva and grab yourself a place on her free webinar The Smart Bloggers Guide to social scheduling

     

  • The gift guide for freelancers and home workers

    Look everyone, it’s the inevitable gift guide for freelancers and home workers!

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    Looking for a gift for the freelancer or home worker in your life? Below are just a few ideas for what you could get them.

    What’s on your freelance wishlist for 2014? Let me know in the comments below.

  • How to expand your knowledge as a freelancer (+ a competition!)

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    One of the things I enjoy about freelancing is the constant learning curve. Being in control of your own business means you can invest time in learning about HTML, project management, photo editing or a whole variety of other things. This flexibility and wider knowledge base is what I feel gives freelancers an edge – we’re able to go that extra mile and be more agile.

    There are a variety of ways you can top up your learning.

    • Through blogs. This is a quick way to learn about new apps, services and tools.
    • Books. I’m an audiobooks fan, and can often be found browsing the personal development section for my next listen. If you’re more of a Kindle or proper book fan, your choices are almost unlimited thanks to sites like Amazon. It’s also worth checking out your local library too.
    • Podcasts – I highly recommend checking out podcasts by DotComSecrets.com, Amy Porterfield and The Suitcase Entrepreneur for digital and entrepreneur knowledge. Radio Four has a huge bundle of informative podcasts too.
    • YouTube/Video – I’ve learnt so much from YouTube – from how to edit images to improving my confidence when public speaking. Taking the time to build up your YouTube subscriptions and to like content you find useful will help keep your knowledge topped up.
    • Online and offline courses – There are plenty of online and offline courses out there to indulge your mind with. I personally prefer online courses as I can do them in my own time, but you can also try offline courses at your local college.

    High Speed Training

    I was recently contacted by High Speed Training to see if I fancied trying out a couple of their courses. My main thought with online courses is price, followed by what I’ll actually get out of it. But I was pleased to note that most of the courses were only £20-30 each (+ VAT). I gave a couple of the Business Skills courses a try –  Time Management and Event Management. They also have a variety of other courses for food hygiene, health and safety, health & nutrition and financial services among others.

    Each course takes around a couple of hours – but you don’t need to do the entire course at once. It’s split into modules so you can dip in and out when you have time. The courses are made up of a series of presentations, which you can read and listen to at the same time. For example, the Time Management course offered modules on managing meetings, setting objectives, taking decisive action, managing interruptions, followed by an assessment to see what you’ve learnt from the course. Once you’ve completed the course and passed the online test at the end, they’ll send you a certificate.

    I found the courses really useful – especially the Time Management one. While they do seem to be aimed more at those who have employees or work within a company, there’s plenty of advice that’s worth taking on board as a freelancer. I liked that I was given phrases to use to dodge time-wasters!

    Win a High Speed Training Course

    The nice people at High Speed Training have offered to give away an online course for FIVE lucky readers of The Freelance Lifestyle.

    To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. The mandatory part is to let us know which course you’d like to take. After that, you can gain extra entries by using the optional entries below it –  tweeting, Facebooking or sharing.

    The competition will run until the 26th July. The winner will be contacted on the 29th July.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    How do you expand your knowledge? 

    Disclaimer: High Speed Training allowed me to take two courses for free. All views are my own.