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.
When I was a teacher I had to work very set hours. Up early and working late; counting down to the holidays. I started dreaming of a freelance lifestyle, and eventually made the jump.
What I wanted from my new life:
The ability to choose my hours. I don’t want to necessarily work less, just when I want.
To choose who I spend my time with.
To be able to influence my own success.
To have a flexible working situation; my end dream was to be able to work from a Starbucks!
To have more variety in my working life.
For just over a year I worked from home, and yes, I managed to work from coffee shops a lot! I woke up later, but worked later into the night, using my natural night owl tendencies to their best effect.
The only concern I had had when leaving the world of regular work was that of being lonely. To prevent this (which actually turned out to be rather unnecessary but awesome nonetheless) I started my own business support group. It’s called Wonderful Women: Minding Our Own Business, and we’re a small group of fabulous ladies who have started running their own businesses. We meet a couple of times a month to share ideas, learn and debate and have a cheeky cocktail or two.
However, my journey has now taken me on a different path, and I have recently opened my own hair salon. So although I still run my own business, I’m not quite as freelance as I was last year.
However, it does come with its own perks too (even if I’m not working from Starbucks anymore!).
Despite having set hours to work, I can still be flexible. I can decide to open later/early or to take a day off!
I get to meet lots of awesome new people every day.
The routine can be quite nice – you get up at a certain time, no wasting time lounging in bed!
It makes having time off easier. When you work from home, switching off is very difficult!
Being part of a team. Although I’m the boss, I definitely feel like I’m part of team. Which is cool.
So I have experienced regular employment, a freelance lifestyle as well as a business owner’s working day, and I have to say I have enjoyed the benefits of all three. I imagine that eventually I will settle into a mix of the last two, having a concrete business to run, but one which doesn’t need me physically there to be running successfully.
Some of us are more suited to different work patterns, have you reflected recently on what sort of working day would be your ideal?
In the years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve had a mix of clients. On the whole, 80% have been brilliant. They communicate well, pay on time and generally make the job enjoyable. I love working with them and giving them the results they want.
Then you’ve got those that make you question whether the work is really worth it.
Difficult clients are par for the course in freelancing. I’m not talking about demanding clients here (I actually love working with clients who work as hard as I do to get the results they want). I’m talking about the ones that move the goal posts constantly, are late paying (or come up with reasons why they shouldn’t have to pay you) or take advantage of your good nature.
So, who are these difficult clients and how do you deal with them?
The constant late payer (or non payer)
I invoice on the 24th of each month. My favourite clients are the ones that pay by the end of the first week of the next month. It means I can pay the mortgage. My least favourite are those that require constant chasing – and they’re often the ones that I stop working with if I have to spend large amounts of time requesting payment. My opinion is, if they can afford to pay their staff for their work, they can afford to pay their freelancer for their work.
Make your payment expectations clear in your Terms and Conditions, and put into place late fees for those that pay outside that set period.
If you’re working long-term with a client and they’ve continuously put off paying you, stop producing any work for them until they pay up. It’s surprising how many clients suddenly find the money when you do this.
If you’re working on a project (or you’re unsure of the client), you should also ask for half the payment up front.
If all also fails and it’s a sizeable amount, you can take legal action against them.
The goal post changer
The goal post changer, is the client who constantly changes their mind about what they want you to do. This isn’t the same as a client who challenges you so you’re constantly learning and improving. They might want you to do Facebook, then change their mind a week later as they’ve not had the 1,000 likes they had hoped for. Essentially, they want instant gratification. More often than not, this client wants to have all their correspondence on the phone.
This kind of client is often in charge of a start-up business (my personal experience is that they often fail, as actions are not seen through.)
If they insist that all correspondence should be done on the phone, make sure you follow up with a summary email of your confirmation and ask them to confirm it. This should help if they ask to change direction again, as you can forward that email as evidence of what you’re currently doing.
Go with your gut when deciding to work with them. If your gut says no, it’s probably right!
Ask for 50% deposit for a project
The vague one
The vague client isn’t necessarily a difficult client. They just need a little guidance. They want the results, but they’re not quite sure how to get there. The great thing about this client, is that they’re generally open to suggestions and are great to work with on a project. Managed well, working with this client can actually be great.
I have a feeling these clients are toughest for web and graphic designers, who get vague directions like “I’d like it to ‘pop’ more” or “Can you make it…better?”
Sit down with them (online or offline) and discuss a plan going forward. Set deadlines and targets, so you both know what is going on.
Have a thorough discussion of what they do and don’t want, so it’s clear what both parties want.
Keep them constantly informed.
The 24/7 one
The internet has completely revolutionised the business world. Sadly, it’s also meant that some clients expect you to be on call all the time.
This is particularly frustrating when clients call you at 8 or 9pm at night, without forward notice. Especially when you’re at the pub.
Include your work hours in your Terms and Conditions, and explain what your client can expect
While you might work at the weekends, I wouldn’t let your clients know that unless strictly necessary.
Request that phone conversations be booked in advance, rather than spontaneous.
The manipulative one
The manipulative client is the most difficult client. They’ll probably have attributes of all the above. They won’t pay on time (but they’ll have dozens of reasons why), they’ll constantly change the goal posts so you’re unable to finish anything (which they’ll use as an excuse for not paying you) and they’ll play constant mind games.
They’re not always easy to spot. Some manipulative clients will play on your good nature, and spin you a sob story for why they can’t pay you. There are definitely cases where clients can’t pay, and I’m sympathetic to that. But if it’s month after month, they’re probably not genuine.
Honestly? Get rid. No matter how much they’re going to pay, it’s probably not going to make working for them any easier.
If the money is amazing, or you’re really passionate about it, stick with them but create some strict guidelines.
Have you experienced working with any of the above? Let me know in the comments how you dealt with them!
(It should be noted that there are just as many difficult freelancers. Neither party is perfect!)
So, last week’s poll was all about being proactive or reactive. The results suggest that the majority of you are reactive, or a mixture of both reactive and proactive. Quite interesting! I always assume the majority of us are proactive, but I’d imagine those that answered ‘reactive’ are those that have a steady workload and there’s less of a need to be proactive. What do you think?
A bit of a fluffy poll today, all about what you have in the background while you work….
The Weekly Freelance Challenge does exactly what it says on the tin. Each week, I’ll set a challenge that I will take part in, and it’s open for anyone to join in. One week it might be about improving productivity or finding new clients, and the next week it might be about how to lead a healthier freelance lifestyle. Feel free to join in and leave a comment with your progress, leave a comment on my Facebook page or use the Twitter hashtag #TWFCUK.
How did you all get on with last week’s meal planning freelance challenge? Did you get round to doing it? I’d love to know how you got on in the comments below.
This week’s challenge is all about doing something challenging. Something you’ve been scared about doing for a while, but really want to do.
It could be something work-related, like:
Create your first YouTube video
Create your first podcast
Contact someone you admire for advice
Book a speaking engagement.
Submit a guest post/contact your favourite blog about guest posting
Organise a business event (Clue: That’s my challenge with Sally Todd!)
Request LinkedIn recommendations.
Or something personal, like:
Organise an event with friends
Sign up for an exercise class
Take up a new craft
Sign up for some extreme sport/a marathon
Book a trip somewhere on your own
So, what are you going to challenge yourself with this week? Let me know in the comments below, or over on Twitter @emma_cossey.
You’ve got a long list of things to do. Some of them are fun things (hello Pinterest!), some of them are dull things. And some of them are things you put off for days, weeks or months.
We’ve all got tasks on our lists that we don’t want to do, that we HAVE to do. So, how do we get around the procrastination and avoidance?
Here are a few suggestions:
The Eat That Frog method. Based on the book by Brian Tracey, the Eat That Frog method is all about doing the hardest part of your day first, so everything afterwards is easier. If you have to eat a frog during your day, isn’t it better to eat it first, so you don’t have to dread it all day.
Break it down. If it’s a big task, break it down into manageable parts (anyone getting flashbacks of GCSE tutorial adverts?), and concentrate on doing a part each morning. By the end of the week, it’ll be done!
Schedule it in your online calendar, so you get a pop up reminding you. Alternatively, block out a period of time to do the job (I find this works well with admin/finances.)
Really hate it? Can you outsource it? Sometimes it’s possible to outsource the stuff you don’t want to do.
So, this week’s challenge is to do that thing you’ve been putting off. I’ll be doing the same (I’ve been putting off creating some business terms and conditions and a business plan).
I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about how to get new business. Potential clients come from a range of areas for me – some through Google to my website, some through referrals, some through Twitter and some through my networking. The latter is something I certainly need to do more of, as I’ve been relying on referrals and my website in the past couple of months. Actively going out there and meeting people is certainly a proactive method, while I consider queries through my website or Twitter more reactive methods – even if I’ve specifically posted about work on Twitter or updated my Hire Me section.
I am by nature a very proactive person. If there’s a problem, I’d rather work on a practical solution rather than dwell too long on the problem itself. Realising that my current methods are mainly reactive made me realise I need to amend how I’m doing things. For my work, I need a mixture of proactive and reactive methods
So, my question this week is, do you have a proactive or reactive approach to freelancing? Or a mixture of the approaches? Which method do you reply on most? Let me know in the comments!
I like to cover a range of topics in this freelance lifestyle challenge, ranging from how to pitch to new clients to how to fit exercise into your schedule. The last few challenges have been work-based, so I thought it might be time to throw in something freelance lifestyle-related.
Ah food. Working from home means you’re close to a) a fridge full of the stuff, and b) numerous gadgets to cook it up. No more supermarket soggy sandwiches for you! Unfortunately, this often means a hastily thrown together mountain of pasta, or something deep fried. Or nothing at all, aside from a constantly refilled coffee cup.
For me, one of the best ways to get on top of food and meals as a freelancer, is to create a weekly meal plan. Sitting down to plan out your meals for the week will hopefully save you time, money and, if you’re on the diet wagon with me, calories/fat/carbs. I tend to do it on a Sunday, then do the shop on a Monday (when the shops are quieter).
Here are my five steps for Meal Planning success.
Find your recipes
Search through your cookbooks, Pinterest boards, favourite blogs and bookmarks for recipes. The first time you’ll do this, it’ll probably take a while. To make things quicker in the long run, keep a notepad by your side and make a note of all the recipes you like.
Pop the recipes you’re going to do this week into a planner. I just write mine down in a Wunderlist list, but you could use a spreadsheet, or a whiteboard/blackboard on your fridge. I like this meal planner on Amazon for easy planning.
Search and shop
Make a shopping list of all the foods you’ll need. Have a look through your cupboards, check what you need and then hit the shops (or do an online shop). Personally, I like to visit shops like Aldi or Lidl first to pick up cheaper fresh produce, then check out one of the bigger supermarkets after for the rest.
Store, freeze or eat
When you get home, work out if you can cook any of the meals ahead and freeze now, so you can just defrost and reheat later in the week. It’s no exaggeration that doing this has changed my life. Once a week, I cook a batch of breakfast burritos for the Mr to take to work, some pizza puffs for snacks and lunches, boil a batch of chicken breasts to shred and separate into portions, and some lemon chicken (just pop a raw chicken breast in foil, squirt lemon juice on it, add tarragon then wrap up for the freezer. Then bake for 45 mins from frozen) and some smoothie mixes (packs of mixed fruit).
I can cook, pack or freeze all of the above in two hours. That’s it. Done for the week.
If you’ve picked up a bargain piece of meat in the supermarkets that goes out of date today, throw it in the oven while you’re dealing with the rest of the week’s food.
Sit back, smug in the knowledge that dinner is already sorted for the week. Also, keep looking out for potential recipes. Now it’s autumn (YAY!), you should be able to find lots of recipes for foods you can throw in the slow cooker (from the fridge or freezer), so you can smell it gradually through the day. Yum.
I’ve got a little scrapbook of recipes now, both online and off, and a stockpile of homemade meals in the freezer so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t cook.
If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve popped some useful resources below.
Pinterest boards: I have a board filled with Freezables (including the recipes for pizza puffs and breakfast burritos). I’ve also recently created a Meal Planning board with recipes I’m planning to cook.
Once a Month Mom is the Queen of meal planning and freezables. She’s recently changed the site recently, so you may have to subscribe for some features, but most of the recipes are still available. I like that you can search by your need – e.g. ingredient, type of diet, style of cooking. It’s all fairly simple too, hurrah! I get the email updates each day, which I’d recommend.
Get using your Kindle. I like the Once a Week Cookbook, especially as it’s currently only £1.54 to download. When I find recipes I like, I screen grab them and save them to a special photo folder on my iPad.
If you’re a UK resident, you might notice a lot of the recipes are from the USA. Our friends across the ocean are hugely organised when it comes to food. Anyway, it’s worth getting a set of measuring cups as a lot of their measurements are done this way. I like this super-cute measuring cup set.
I really do think you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes though. I’ve noticed that between shopping at Lidl/Aldi and doing this, I cut my weekly shop by between a quarter and a third a week. Plus, freezing a lot of it means you don’t waste so much fresh food. Best of all, I’m not far less likely to say “oh, shall we just order in from Pizza Hut?”.
Gosh, that was a longer post than I had initially planned! As you might have guessed, meal planning is this week’s challenge! You don’t have to go to the extensive lengths I have – but try writing down a basic idea of what dinners you’re going to have this week before you do your shop. I bet you’ll find you avoid that panic in the first few aisles of Tesco, when you fill your trolley with anything plastered in a special offer sticker.
Are you a meal planner? Do you have any tips to share?
One of the handy things about blogging, is that sometimes it helps you address issues that you’re pondering yourself. Sometimes it helps to get things down on paper to clear your thoughts and come to a solution that can help you or your readers.
Earlier this month, I had a run of misfortune when several of my biggest clients had to end my contact due to budget cuts. Many of them are clients I’ve had since I started, so it left me feeling a lot less secure. Especially with a mortgage to pay and a wedding to save for. This, by the way, is why you need a freelance savings account. For those months when money is tight.
Looking on the positive side, losing those contracts wasn’t reflective of my services or quality of blog posts. But it did result in a knock to my confidence, as well as to my income. But sometimes, these things happen so you can take on brand new challenges.
Having spent a while thinking through my options, I’ve come up with a few things to get you (and me) through the tougher times.
1) Take a breath and reflect.
To be brutally honest with you, I’m awful at dealing with the emotional side of losing clients. I’m very practical, so emotions often get swept under the carpet. I actually ended up bottling up my worries about business and money until I ended up having a little cry this weekend to my other half. It was only until then that I felt like my mind had cleared and I was able to rationally look at my situation and how to go about rectifying it. Don’t be afraid to mourn the loss of a client if you’ve worked with them for a while! But don’t mourn for long. This is your chance to take on new responsibilites.
Once you’re done mourning, have a look at your business. Is what you’re currently doing working towards your long term goals? Does the extra time you now have give you the opportunity to try out things you haven’t been able to before? Now might be your best chance to put those goals into practice!
An extra benefit is that you’ll be able to start with a fresh sheet with new clients – so potentially you can increase your prices to line up with industry standards, input a new contract or code of conduct and change up how you do things.
2) Reach out to your contacts
The next thing to do is to reach out to your contacts. When I knew I was about to lose some clients, I reached out to my friends in the industry to find out if they knew of any potential clients or projects I could work on. I’m very fortunate that several got in touch, plus I’ve discussed a few projects with a few friends that will hopefully come to fruition. Those contacts are vital, and better than any advertising option.
3) Get pitching
Once you’ve spoken to your contacts, write up a list of clients you’d like to work with. Then pitch to them! Don’t wait for work to come to you, make it happen.
4) Don’t panic
Admittedly, this is the advice my other half gave to me. But if you reach out to your contacts, pitch to potential clients, reassess your options and look at all your income options, your work should pay off eventually. It’s now a few weeks down the line and I’ve had contacts from my website and referrals that will hopefully lead to some work next month. I might not be able to relax yet, but it’s good to know the work I’ve done so far is starting to lead to potential work.
5) Use your spare time wisely
Get ahead on your admin. Get out and about in your local area (you never know, it might lead to some business opportunities.) Clear out and tidy your office and home. Take a day or two away to refresh your brain. Hell, enjoy the odd lie in! But make sure you work hard to find new work too. It’s tough out there at the moment, especially in editorial digital media and blogging, but if you can’t find any roles the internet gives you the opportunity to create your own work. Look out for a niche market or something that’s not already out there (or if it is, it’s not done well) and do it!
Over to you! How do you cope with a freelance famine?
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