Freelance Business

  • Freelance Life Favourites: August

    Hello, and welcome to a new series on the blog! This is going to be a regular column sharing some of my favourite products, experiences and people. A peek into my freelance life (with the highs and the lows!).

    August, with its mix of hot weather and lots of people on holiday (including potential clients), is never my favourite month. But on the flipside, I adore September and the potential start of autumn, and I’m so excited to move into this season. It’s that back to school feeling isn’t it?

    August was not without its perks though. Here are a few of my favourites from August (yup, I know it’s a bit late, I’m aiming to make future columns a little earlier in the month!)

    Favourite Work

    September doesn’t just mean a fresh start for me, but a brand new collection for one of my clients. I’ve been busy with the Winter launch for Chocolates for Chocoholics, which means I’ve got to hang out with my sister lots too and do lots of fun stuff on social media.

    You can have a peek on Instagram and Facebook at what we’ve been up to.

    [su_slider source=”media: 13482,13483,13484,13485″ limit=”7″ width=”640″ height=”640″]

    Favourite App

    I’m a big fan of Canva, but I’ve found Adobe Spark Post recently for quickly creating social media content. It’s been especially handy for editing images for Instagram Stories.

    Favourite Gadget

    My Apple Watch. I podcasted about this recently, but I’m still really enjoying my Apple Watch, especially for nudging me about getting up when I’ve been sat working for too long, and tracking how much time I’m spending on my phone (the Moment app is fab for that).

    Favourite Podcast/Blog

    Laura at Wholeheartedly Healthy shares my obsession with all things autumn, and I loved this post from her on How To Make The Most Of The September Fresh Start.

    Favourite Place

    I live in Bracknell, and have had some beautiful days out recently in the parks around us. I’m also really excited for the launch of the brand new shopping centre, The Lexicon, later this week. They’ve got a great independent coffee shop in the centre, as well as plenty of my favourite shops, so I’m looking forward to going there after doing the nursery drop and doing a little work (while accidentally falling into the shops).

    [su_slider source=”media: 13479,13478,13477″ limit=”7″ width=”640″ height=”640″]

    Favourite Book

    I recently finished reading Leap Year. It’s from Helen Russell, who wrote The Year Of Living Danishly, and I love her writing style. Helen and her friends try out different approaches to change, and report back on their findings. If you enjoyed The Year Of Living Danishly, I’d highly recommend picking this up (especially on audiobook).

    What were your freelance life August favourites?

  • Working From Home Bingo

    Today I’ve got a post for you in collaboration with Furniture At Work, who sent me over a video that really struck a chord with me.

    I love that the video recognised the difference challenges of working in an office and working from home. Even down to going professional on the top, pyjamas on the bottom when jumping on a conference call!

    It got me thinking – which things have we all done when working from home?

    Pull out your marker, it’s time to play Work From Home bingo!

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Doll up your top half for a conference call

    (Bonus points if you only style the front of your hair)

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Work on a particularly boring task in front of Netflix

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Have a mini office dance party when a project goes well.

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Get too chatty with the postman because they’re the first person you’ve seen today

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Become the default house for all the deliveries in your street.

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Keep a ‘postman bra’ by the door to throw on when the doorbell goes unexpectedly

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Find yourself cleaning the house instead of dealing with a tricky work task

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Feel irrational rage when people are noisy in your street in the middle of the day

    (This was me this week when trying to record a podcast when my neighbours were having building work)

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Feel a little bit jealous of people’s takeaway lunches on Instagram…

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] …Then realising that you can cook really amazing lunches at home/order a Dominos

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Put Peppa Pig on so you can take a call/reply to an important email

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Feel a bit smug when it’s 8am and you don’t have to commute to work

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Fend off friends or family who assume you can drop work at a moment’s notice

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Reach peak ‘I need to see humans’ status and heading to a coffee shop

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Come home again and realise how much you love working from home

    Thanks to Furniture At Work for sending over the video, have a peek at their site for lots of cheap office desks and more!

  • How my job-hopping years prepared me for self-employment

    This week we’ve got a guest post from the lovely Michelle Abrahall, a member of the Freelance Lifestylers group and a graphic designer, illustrator and copywriter. I loved the idea of this post she suggested, as I know quite a few freelancers have a history of job-hopping a little before settling into freelancing (myself included). 

    You can also check out Michelle’s charming illustrated gifts in her Etsy shop. 

    Here’s her guest post! 


    Like many freelancers, my path to self-employment was far from smooth sailing. After leaving Uni with a degree in Illustration, I had a ‘what now’ moment that I’m sure every graduate can relate to. Caught in the Catch-22 of not having enough work experience to apply for jobs, and not being able to get a foot in the door to gain said experience, there followed a decade of job hopping that would have put Kermit to shame.

    During the Decade of No Direction I did all sorts to pay the mortgage for minimum wage: split shifts at a gym that meant finishing at 10.30pm and going back in for 6am the next day, working in a card shop in a new shopping court that was as quiet as a graveyard, and being stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque loop of tidying a perfectly tidy stationery cupboard in an office full of old men.

    At the time, if you’d offered the wisdom that ‘all experience is good experience’ you probably would have got a Grade 5 Paddington Hard Stare for your trouble. When you’re in job hopping hell, you don’t want to hear such platitudes. You just want a job that actually uses your skills (thank goodness for freelancing!).

    But, lo and behold, looking back on my job-hopping years I can see that they did have value and have even contributed to my self-employed success.

    Validation of Ambition

    Many times during those uninspiring years, I wished I was the kind of person that would be happy just doing a job to pay the bills. But I wasn’t, and as a friend of mine says, sometimes dissatisfaction is the price of ambition. All that time spent not doing what I really wanted just reinforced the idea that there was a better job out there for me, even if I had to create it myself.

    Customer Service

    It doesn’t matter what area of business you freelance in, ultimately you are working for a customer. My various retail and hospitality positions gave me an excellent grounding in customer service, and an ability to talk to just about anyone. Dealing with both happy and disgruntled customers taught me that friendliness and politeness goes a long way, but also that some people just can’t be reasoned with!

    Office Life

    Administrative roles were fantastic work experience for me: even simple things like knowing how to compose an email, use a spreadsheet, update a website, and plan an event are all invaluable when you’re self-employed. Helping to run a business day to day taught me so much about how to run my own, so even though giving up a salary felt like taking the plunge, I wasn’t in completely unchartered waters.

    It’s been great to look back and put a positive spin on those job-hopping years, and to feel like perhaps they weren’t the waste of time I always thought they were. Who knows if I’ll ever go back to ‘traditional employment’, but I know that if I do, I’ll have plenty of experience to fall back on!

  • 5 Ways To Streamline Your Business And Life

    Do you ever get that panicked feeling that you have so much to do, with so many loose ends, but you’re not sure how to deal with it all? One of the upsides AND downsides of being your own boss is that you’re in charge of everything. It can get pretty overwhelming. Which is why it’s so important to take a step back sometimes and work on your business rather than just in it. To work out a strategy for how to run your business without running yourself into the ground.

    I’ve got a few tips to get you on your way to becoming more streamlined and focused.

    streamline your business

    1. Be aware of how you spend your time. One of the best ways you can streamline your business, is by simply becoming more aware of how you’re spending your time. You might be shocked! You can do this using apps like 30/30, or by simply writing down what you’re doing. Once you’re aware of how you’re spending your time, you can focus on what needs outsourcing or trimming.
    2. Don’t multi-task. There’s plenty of evidence out there that it doesn’t work for the vast majority of people. Single tasking is more efficient, and if you batch work you can plan much further ahead. For example, if you batch work all your social media in one morning, you’re not constantly thinking about it all month (although you should still check in daily). Additionally, according to this quote from the American Psychological Association “Meyer has said that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.” Planning ahead and batching things up can really help you feel more streamlined.
    3. Schedule ahead. Wherever possible, get ahead on your scheduling for social media (try Buffer), blogging and newsletters. Knowing you already have something in the works and you’re a step ahead frees you up to focus on the other important stuff – and potentially spot opportunities you would have missed before. It also reduces panic if you happen to fall ill or have to take a couple of days off.
    4. Only spend time on the social media that works for you. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of being on everything. But which tools are working for you? Choose 2 or 3, and focus on doing them well, rather than panicking that you’re not a Pinterest Queen or a Twitter Guru.
    5. Use IFTTT recipes. IFTTT is a site that enables you to create ‘recipes’ using different online tools, so that when one tool does something, it triggers another. I’ve shared a few of my favourite IFTTT recipes here on the blog and over here on Yell Business.

     

  • Interview with beach huts business Millie’s Huts, Victoria Gunn

    Curious about hiring somewhere a bit different for a meeting, a day of work or just a day at the beach? In this week’s podcast, I interview Victoria Gunn from Millie’s Huts, who has a beach hut hire business. Her beach huts are absolutely stunning (think Boden means beach), and are perfect for a day when you need to focus on writing or just fancy a day out with the family. I like that they’re affordable too – starting from £35 a day, depending on the time of year (located in Walton on the Naze).

    We chatted about all sorts of things, from her move from being an accountant to buying her first beach hut, to how she structures her day and what her must-use tools are as a business owner.

    Have a listen below, or subscribe on iTunes here.

    Podcast notes:

    Find Millie’s Huts online

    Website: https://milliesbeachhuts.co.uk/

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MilliesBeachHuts/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/Millies_Huts

    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/milliesbeachhuts/

    Other sites mentioned

    The Brid (the shed Vicky was working from during our chat) http://www.gilliesandmackay.com/cabins-2
    Marnie Makes: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/marniemaurri

    Where’s the most unusual place you’ve worked?

  • How do you define yourself? Freelancer, self-employed, entrepreneur or contractor?

    “Hello! Nice to meet you, what do you do?”

    The opening question that leaves most self-employed types wondering where to start.

    Not just because most of us have more than one skill or specialism, or struggle to summarise what we do in a sentence.

    Not just because you have to tailor your answer to your audience (because Julie at networking needs a different answer to your Aunty Jane who only got Facebook in 2016 and mainly uses it to share pictures of her cats).

    But because choosing the term for being self-employed can be tricky. Are you a freelancer? Self-Employed? An entrepreneur? A contractor?

    (We’re just going to gloss over terms like ‘Girl Boss’, ‘Mumpreneur’, or ‘Boss Bitch’ *makes retching noises*)

    The Definitions

    So, what do each of them mean? According to the Business Dictionary

    Definition of Freelance

    Working on a contract basis for a variety of companies, as opposed to working as an employee for a single company. Freelancers are often considered to be self-employed, and have the freedom to pick and choose their projects and companies they would like to be associated with.

    Definition of Self-Employed

    Sole-proprietor or partner in a partnership to whom the legal requirements under a contract of employment do not apply. He or she, however, may employ others under such contract. Self-employed individuals obtain their own work or sales and pay their own expenses.

    Definition of a Contractor

    Independent entity that agrees to furnish certain number or quantity of goods, material, equipment, personnel, and/or services that meet or exceed stated requirements or specifications, at a mutually agreed upon price and within a specified timeframe to another independent entity called contractee, principal, or project owner.

    Definition of an Entrepreneur

    Someone who exercises initiative by organising a venture to take benefit of an opportunity and, as the decision maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced.

    An entrepreneur supplies risk capital as a risk taker, and monitors and controls the business activities. The entrepreneur is usually a sole proprietor, a partner, or the one who owns the majority of shares in an incorporated venture.

    So, a fair bit of overlap there. I ran a poll in the Facebook group, and the results were as follows:

    • Freelance: 35 votes
    • Self-employed: 24 votes
    • Business Owner: 17 votes
    • Other: 4 votes (this was generally those who used multiple terms or were still unsure)
    • Consultant: 2 votes
    • Entrepreneur: 2 votes
    • Contractor: 1 vote

    Lots of respondents said they tailored the term depending on who they were speaking to. 

    Freelance came out as the most popular option. But, the interesting thing from the comments is that many considered what they were doing to be freelancing, but felt uncomfortable using that term with others.

    Why are we avoiding using the word freelancer?

    Being freelance is still not taken seriously.

    Anyone who has had a family member ask ‘when are you going to get a real job?’ will relate to this. Despite the fact that, as of 2016, there are 2 million freelancers in the UK (1.77 million work freelance in main jobs and a further 234,000 work freelance in second jobs, figures via IPSE), freelancing is still considered by many to be an in-between jobs situation, or a hobby career. Whereas the terms business owner or self-employed suggest a more serious affair. Perhaps the term ‘freelance’ just sounds a little more frivolous.

    (Oh, by the way, freelancers contributed £119 BILLION to the economy in 2016).

    Many believe freelancers make less money than contractors or business owners.

    From my own experience, I’ve found that when I use the terms contractor or consultant, I’ve had less resistance from clients on higher prices. In fact, some in the group avoided saying contractor or consultant in case clients thought they would be more expensive. The other problem is that agencies often see freelancers as the cheaper option too, and treat them in that manner.

    Freelancers are considered to be part-time.

    Similar to the above, many consider freelancers to be part-time or casual. Although even part-time freelancers spend large chunks of their non-working time checking social media, replying to emails and taking client calls, often on the side of their full time job. And full time freelancers work FAR more hours than the average employee.

    The spike in ‘earn six figures in your lunch break, with my £20k course’ entrepreneurs.

    I’m not a big fan of any of the entrepreneurs who peddle get rich quick schemes. I think they’ve done a lot of damage to the freelancing market, and promote the idea that people just want a quick win for very little work. Freelancers don’t freelance for a quick hit of cash, they freelance for work/life balance, out of passion, to work while raising a family, for their mental health, because it opens up their career options.

    If you’re selling a product, the term freelance throws people.

    As more and more freelancers branch out into selling products (even digital ones like courses and ebooks), the term ‘freelance’ can feel like it doesn’t fit. When a freelancer moves from being customer-focused to client-focused, it can cause a bit of an identity crisis.

    Mindset!

    Considering yourself freelance might actually be a limiting belief, in that you might believe that you’ll never be more than an individual working for clients (which, actually, is all some freelancers want). But if you have bigger plans, it might be that the term freelance can feel outgrown.

    Is the negativity around the term freelance a gender issue?

    Interestingly, I think most of the above judgements are applied more to woman than men. Men seem to get a better reception to describing themselves as freelancers. This could be because a big chunk of the freelancing market is made up of freelancing mums working part-time (*waves*), largely because freelancing is often the only way many mums (and dads) can return to earning money without having any income wiped out by childcare.

    Perhaps the fact that nearly anyone can become a freelancer has created some snobbery around it too.

    That said, I think freelancers are very respectful and supportive of each other (come join the Freelance Lifestylers community!). Most of the problems above are from ignorance and not actually knowing what a freelancer is, rather than coming from the freelance community itself.

    The Future of the Freelance Lifestyle

    I’ll be honest, when I started writing this article, I did briefly consider whether it was time for a name change of the blog. After all, if people are struggling with using the term, why carry on using it?

    But as I mentioned earlier, the problem isn’t what we consider ourselves to be. It’s with how we describe it to others. I’m not sure what the answer is for that. But I still believe that this space is for those of us who consider ourselves freelancer or self-employed.

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

  • Five things to consider when choosing a networking event

    choosing a networking event

    I’ve just got back from a networking business expo nearby, and on the drive back I started to think about what we as freelancers need to consider when choosing a networking event. Not all networking events are the same, and to get the most out of them you need to find the right one(s) for you.

    So, what should you consider?

    Introvert or Extrovert?

    Introverted? There’s a good chance you’ll be on top form for an hour or two, but anything more than that will drain you. Check the length of the meetings. For me, a full day’s networking like today was a little too long for me. It’s also important to buffer in some recovering time after to recharge, so block out the afternoon or day after for low energy work. If you’re an extrovert, you might prefer a more high energy networking event.

    Dress Code

    Ok, I know this sounds like it might be a shallow consideration. I’m not suggesting you judge a networking event by who wears the best shoes. But I’m really not a suit-wearer (that was one of the best things I gave up when I left the corporate world). And my clients are rarely suit-wearers. So I tend to go for the ones with more relaxed dress codes. Equally, if you love nothing more than suiting up, and your clients are usually more corporate, those are probably more suited (pun intended).

    Group Size

    Are you looking for focused chats with a small group of people, or more brief chats with a larger group of people? Both have their benefits, but your preference is likely to depend on whether you’re introverted or extroverted.

    Networking Format

    Do you prefer a fixed structure, or a more relaxed environment? For some, a fixed structure with the opportunity to pitch to a group is attractive, whereas others fancy a morning of coffee and chat with other like-minded people.

    Costs

    How much does it cost to sign up? Some ask for an annual fee plus a sign up, while others just ask for the cost of a cup of tea or coffee. What works for your budget right now?

  • My three favourite Gmail hacks for freelancers

    I bloody love Gmail.

    Yes, it’s buggy. Yes, it has a habit of crashing occasionally. But I love that I can route all my other email addresses from it. I love that I can choose the layout of my Gmail, and route around those pesky sale emails that suck me into a browsing vortex. Most of all, I love that there are so many options for customising your experience.

    Here are three of my favourites.

    (Prefer to listen to this post? Here’s the podcast!)

     

    Mixmax

    Mixmax is like Gmail on caffeine. It’s a plugin that adds a lot more functionality to emails, including:

    • Saving templates for future use. I use this to save my coaching agreements and the responses I use often.
    • Add in your availability, polls, slideshows, surveys and loads of other cool bits
    • Track opening and clicking rates of emails
    • Schedule emails for the future
    • Links added to emails will be embedded as a lovely clickable box

    It’s only on the browser version rather than mobiles sadly, but to be honest the functions I would use are the ones I tend to use during a big ‘sit at my desk and plough through my inbox’ session.

    Email Game

    When my email has got too much, Email Game is my first stop. Login with your gmail and you can race through your emails, with a time limit for each email. You can respond, archive or boomerang items back into your inbox at a later time/date. Below is a quick video to show how it works.

    Gamify your inbox? Yes please

    Unroll.me

    Ok, I know everyone goes on about Unroll.me. But in case you haven’t, and have an inbox full of subscriptions that make you develop a moderate to severe eye twitch, get yourself Unrolled. Essentially, you login with your Gmail or Hotmail and choose which subscriptions you want in your daily roll up of emails (you’ll get a daily summary of them). They’ll then go straight into a sub folder, which you can visit anytime if you wish, and all the important stuff will sit in your inbox.

    What tools do you use with Gmail?