Freelance Business

  • Five freelance-friendly IFTTT recipes

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    Have you tried out IFTTT yet? It stands for If This Than That, and is a way to create triggers (or recipes as they call them) so that when you do something on one site, it shares/saves it to another. It’s a nice and simple way to automate your life. You can create your own recipes, or browse others and implement them for your own accounts with one click.

    I use a bunch of IFTTT recipes to make my life easier. Here are just a few of my favourites….

    I’d love to hear about your favourite IFTTT recipes! Let me know them in the comments below…

  • Ten reasons why Google Docs are essential for freelancers

    googledocsWhat do you use for your documents? Are you a loyal fan of Microsoft Word, a regular user of Apple’s office package or do you go old school with the notes app on your phone or a pad and paper?

    I’m a big fan of Google Docs, especially as a freelancer. Here’s why:

    1. Variety – With Google Docs, I can create a Document, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Form and Drawing. I can also use a variety of other apps to enhance all of these.
    2. It’s free – Google Docs are completely free. No initial purchase, or extra packs to make (although there are plenty of apps you can download to use with Google Docs)
    3. Access online – Google Docs is a cloud based system, so I can access and update my documents wherever I am. I often update spreadsheets on the go, or send my Terms and Conditions document to a new client through the inbuilt sharing option.
    4. Easy to find docs – Well, it wouldn’t be a Google product if it wasn’t super-easy to find what I want. As all of my docs sit in Google Docs, rather than languishing in various folders on my computer, all I need to do is a quick search and I’ll find the doc I want.
    5. Collaborative – Far and away the best thing about Google Docs, is how collaborative it is. I often create content plans in a Google Doc spreadsheet, then share it to the client to approve. As it’s live, I can see exactly which cell they’re looking at, and see any edits in real time. Also, when I’m in my Gmail, I can attach a doc directly from my new message.
    6. Public – I can choose to make my links public, either through a link or just as a general public link. I’ve been using this for my eCourse (running again in January!), as I can give my coursemates access to a folder filled with the materials they need.
    7. Google Docs can be used in Google Hangouts – Recently, I’ve been testing out the Google Docs function in Google Hangouts. I can grab a doc from my drive and show my fellow Hangout attendees, which is handy when I’m referring to something in particular.
    8. Uploads – You an upload old documents to Google Docs, which is a nice way to clear up your desktop and back everything up.
    9. IFTTT syncing – Google Docs works with IFTTT, so you can set up triggers to do things like create a spreadsheet with all your expenses that come through your email.
    10. The sheer number of apps – I’ve mentioned the apps a fair bit, but there’s a brilliant selection of free apps you can use with Google Docs. Check out some of my favourites below.

    Apps to try out

    • Movenote – Combines video and presentations, by allowing you to record a video talking the viewer through your presentation, while the presentation streams alongside. You can then save it and send it to someone, making it great for online courses.
    • PowToon – Great for creating animations to use on your website/blog
    • PicMonkey – image editing program PicMonkey is nicely integrated into Google Docs
    • Billable Contacts – If you fancy trying out a billing/invoicing tool within Google Docs, this is well worth a try.

     Have you experimented with Google Docs? What’s your favourite use for it?

    p.s The 30 Day Freelance Lifestyle Ecourse is back in January! Sign up before the 15th to get the special discount…

  • Five life lessons I’ve learnt from freelancing

    I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on freelancing. Maybe it’s because it’s coming to the end of 2013, and reflection is compulsory. Maybe it’s because I’ve mixed things up with a part time training role, working with graduates at the very start of their careers.

    Or, y’know, maybe it’s because I haven’t blogged in a while and the self-imposed guilt is eating me up a bit.

    But I’ve come to the conclusion that many of the lessons I’ve learnt over the last few years of freelancing, are lessons I can apply to other areas of life.

    Life lessons like….

    Talent is a pursued interest

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    One of the things I often hear from new freelancers, or freelancers moving into a new market, is that they’re not ‘good enough’. Imposter syndrome, where you believe someone will find out you’re actually rubbish and will tell everyone else, is pretty common in freelancing. But talent can be developed and practiced. The key to success is obvious yet often undervalued – hard work. Just because you’re not good at something straight away, doesn’t mean you’re not talented.

    Realising this made me approach new opportunities, tasks and skills in a completely different way. Once you realise that most ‘talents’ can be learned, the options become almost unlimited.

    Eat that frog

    I’m a chronic procrastinator when it comes to certain tasks. But if freelancing has taught me anything, it’s that life is a lot easier if you tackle the hard stuff first – whether it be ringing a scary client, doing your finances or running a report. Eat That Frog (check out this video for what Eat That Frog is) is a principle that applies to every area of life – and it honestly makes a huge difference to how organised and productive you are.

    Nice guys might finish last….

    Nice-guys-might-finish-last-but-they-will-never-finish-alone

    I love this meme. I’ve met lots of lovely people while freelancing. But also some total prats. And the total prats are sometimes, frustratingly, extremely successful. This obviously doesn’t mean that all of those who are successful are prats, but the feeling of ‘it’s not fair’ creeps up more often when their douchebag levels are on high.

    But if you get ahead by treading on those below you, or by generally working in a shady manner, you might take home the money but you’re unlikely to have a happy life elsewhere. Don’t feel bad for being a nice/friendly/kind person. You win in the end.

    Being honest and being realistic are two different things

    This one is something I’ve learnt from both my own point of view, and from working with clients. From my own point of view, I have a tendency to honestly believe I can hit a short deadline in time. The reality is – this isn’t always possible (well, not without driving myself batshit cray cray). Equally, many clients will tell me they’ll send over feedback in a certain timeframe – but miss the deadline. The truth is, both parties honestly believe they can achieve something. The intentions are good. But they’re not always realistic.

    In other areas of my life, I realised I often make optimistic, positive promises – which I failed to fulfil. Whether it be calling my sister straight back, or, arriving on time when I’m running late or, crucially, earning enough to pay my bills one month. This one is a work in progress, but sometimes it’s about giving yourself and others a little slack.

    Planning is often procrastination

    One thing I’ve been doing a lot less of in 2013, is planning. In January 2013, I realised I often spent so long planning projects/new ideas, that I never got round to actually doing them. The planning became the procrastination. So this year, I made the decision to plan as I went along. Instead of spending months planning I would spend just an afternoon planning it, then get working on it – whether that be mentioning it on social media, starting the creation process or emailing friends to bounce the idea off of. 

    Once I started doing this in my freelance working life, it started to roll over into the rest of my life. The honest truth is I get far more done when I don’t plan as much. And if something goes a little wrong, I have the flexibility to try something different.

    What life lessons have you learnt from freelancing?

  • Five more apps for freelancers

    Back in May, I wrote a piece about 20 of the best apps for freelancing. Well, here’s an update with five more!

    1) OnTrees

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    OnTrees is an app and website that brings together all of your bank accounts/credit cards and saving accounts in one place, showing you how you spend it and giving you a budget you can customise and receive alerts from. I initially tried it a year or so ago, and was impressed but had some issues adding certain accounts. This seems to have been sorted now, and they’re in the middle of adding lots of other features too. I’ve found it really hard to see how everything is going with personal and business accounts, as well as tracking my credit cards.

    One word of warning though – Rosie from OneManBandAccounting mentioned on Twitter that she’s not worried about their security but doesn’t trust the banks to not blame her if she had fraud etc, so it’s worth considering that.

    boxer app2) Boxer

    Last time, I told you about Mailbox. It seemed like a great mail app, but it gradually became slower for me. Boxer is now my mail app of choice, and is blowing both Mailbox and Apple Mail out of the water. Not only can I quickly check various accounts, but I can also quickly swipe through each message to delete it, add it to a To Do list, archive it, Liking it (which sends the other person a message saying you like it), Label it, stick it in Spam and send a quick response from the list of responses which you can customise.

    3) Haiku Deck

    Haiku Deck is an app Jennifer Begg, my new colleague and old friend, introduced me to. It’s brilliant for creating quick and easy presentations. If you like the Zemanta plugin, which comes up with suggestions based on what you’re typing, you’ll like this app. With Haiku Deck, simplicity is key. Choose an image, text to overlay on top or a graph. Modern presentations don’t need to be really wordy anyway – it usually distracts those watching the presentation.

    Below is an example of what you can do with this tool.


    Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

    Notability4) Notability

    When you’re in a meeting, it can sometimes be tricky to stay on track when things jump around a lot. Which is why I love Notability. This app is brilliant for university students too. Working best on an iPad (although it’s still pretty good on an iPhone), this app records the sound while leaving you free to type out notes, hand draw them or create diagrams.

    Sometimes, I’m dead jealous of how many useful apps students have now at their fingertips.

    5) Concept

    conceptappConcept is a sexy little app for making mind maps or diagrams. I’ve been using it for creating sessions in my day job, but it’s great if you prefer to dump your thoughts in mindmap format.

    What apps do you rate as a freelancer?

  • How to get the most out of your commute

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    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.

    Get H-appy

    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.

    Brain dump

    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.

    Meditate

    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?

  • Want to start your own freelance business? Announcing The Freelance Consultations

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    I’m really excited to announce the launch of the latest addition to The Freelance Lifestyle – the Freelance Consultations. They’re designed to help people make the jump from employed to self-employed, learn how to start their own own freelance business from scratch or how to take a freelance business to the next level.

    I’m sure, like me, you’re sick of seeing adverts claiming to help you START A BUSINESS AND EARN ££££ or EARN SIX FIGURES BY WORKING ONE DAY A WEEK. It all sounds very spammy, doesn’t it?

    So, how do I make it clear that what I do is very different to all of that? By being 100% transparent. Here’s what you can expect from a consultation from me:

    • A 10 minute free consultation before you buy, to find out whether what I do is right for you. Just drop me an email to arrange.
    • An email chat after buying the consultation to find out what you want to get out of the consultation so we can hit the ground running.
    • A consultation covering things like – developing and shaping your business idea, finding your target market, the basics of setting up (including legalities, accounting, invoicing, business plans), networking, social media, blogging, ideas on how to grow and diversify your business and suggestions for how to create a great freelance lifestyle – especially if you’ll be working from home.
    • You’ll also get a free copy of the 30 Day Freelancing Challenge ebook to help take you through more of the basics.
    • I promise to be honest – freelancing and being your own boss is largely wonderful, but it’s also tough at times (but, in my experience, absolutely worth it). I’m also not going to promise you’ll earn a six figure sum by working three hours a week.  Your earning potential might rise by going freelance – but it won’t be without hard work.
    • Consultations are £50 (which is for 60-90 mins), and include research beforehand and follow up questions after. They can take place over Skype, in a private Google+ Hangout or on the phone. If you’re in the Berkshire area, I can also arrange a face-to-face consultation.

    The reason I’m adding these consultations to my services, is because I was lucky enough to have several people advise me on what to do when I first started. I know not everyone else is fortunate enough to have that. So I want to be able to draw on my experiences and knowledge to help others.

    New to The Freelance Lifestyle? You can read a little bit more about me here.

    Interested? Get in touch and we’ll have a chat

  • How to pitch locally

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    In my post on Monday, I mentioned about doing a post on how to pitch locally – and I had quite a few people get in contact to say they really wanted to read it. So here it is!

    As is often the case with The Freelance Lifestyle, the posts I write challenge me to up my game as much as they (hopefully) do for you. I have been a lazy pitcher, so writing this post has givin me the kick up the butt I need.

    How to pitch slap your local community

    I’ve come up with five steps to pitching to your local community.

    1) Identify who your local community is

    Who is your local community? I live in Bracknell, so my direct community is in my town, but often expands out to the larger Berkshire (and occasionally Hampshire) area. If you’re based in one of the big cities, go for a particular area. This doesn’t necessarily need to be your immediate local area though.

    Another thing to consider is who your target customer is. For me that’s generally women aged 20-45, often mums who have just started their own business. So for me, it’s smart to focus on areas where this target market will be – like schools, community groups and Facebook Gossip Girl groups. One of the best ways to find out more about where they are is to get networking.

    2) Identify your own USP

    What makes you stand out from the competition? What’s your unique selling point? It could be your experience, your knowledge or your ability to work well with people. This will help you build your pitch.

    3) Decide on a pitching method

    How do you want to pitch? There are lots of different ways. You could:

    • Give out flyers at your local business park
    • Head to a networking event
    • Email pitch. (My method of choice)
    • Offer clients an incentive to recommend you to others (I’ve just emailed my clients to offer them a £15 Amazon voucher if they refer me to someone who then hires me)
    • Cold call. I’m afraid I’m not brave enough to do this, after spending a couple of years doing it in various jobs, but if you have the gift of the gab this might be your best option. As a personal note, I hate being phone pitched to.

    4) Develop your pitch

    I’m a big believer in keeping things short and sweet. Most people get enough emails and calls, so you want to get to the point as soon as possible. Same goes for networking and flyers. The beauty of the internet is that you can put more detail on your website, and give them the URL.

    The basic things you’ll need for your pitch is –

    • An idea of what their business is and does
    • An idea of what they’re currently doing instead of the service you offer (for example, if you’re a social media manager, do they have a social media presence already?)
    • A short (ideally just a couple of lines) introduction to what you do.
    • A couple of lines on how your services can help them
    • An introduction offer – this isn’t essentially, but sometimes an introduction offer can help edge that person into getting in contact, which brings us to…
    • Contact details. How else are they going to get in touch?

    For years, I avoided pitching because I thought it had to be in a certain format – and very formal. Actually, I think local businesses prefer something a little more personalised and friendly.

    Sketch out an idea of what you want to get across, and if you’re emailing or giving out flyers put together the content for a template.

    5) Do it!

    Pitching has been on my To Do list for the last two weeks. Actually, it’s been on my To Do list for months, but I’ve been putting it off due to wedding and honeymoon stuff. Now that’s done, I’ve decided to block out tomorrow to get pitching.

    There are things you shouldn’t do though…

    How to be a bad pitch b*tch

    • Dropping someone a long, long email about your service. What’s your first reaction when you get a long email? I usually delete it or put it in the ‘read it later’ folder that I never actually read. They’ll probably do the same.
    • Pitching without listening. If you’re doing your pitching over the phone or at a networking event, don’t forget to listen. Think about it – is it better to pitch to someone without knowing much about their business, or smarter to spend five minutes finding out about their business so you can tailor your pitch to them? Additionally, I’ve been to some networking events where someone (and I’m afraid to say, it’s usually a man) strolls up, throws their pitch in my face, then looks bored as soon as they realise I’m not their target market. Even if someone isn’t right for your business, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show an interest – after all, they might know someone else who is perfect.
    • Not doing your research. Lazy research is going to make you look foolish when the person you’re pitching calls you out on it.
    • Follow up to networking pitches. Had a great conversation with someone? Don’t forget to drop them an email a day or two later. Sometimes, people need a prod.

    Are you a pitch superstar? What are your top tips? Share them in the comments below!

     

  • Hi, my name is Emma, and I’m a freelance….er….

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    When someone asks you what you do, what’s your usual response?

    I’ve been freelancing for nearly five years, but I still don’t know how to answer that question. Right now, I’m doing everything from copywriting and blogging to social media planning and consulting. I love the variety of my work. But there isn’t one term to cover all of it – and freelancer doesn’t cut it.

    Which means I have the following options when introducing myself to others:

    • List what I do. While I occasionally do this, especially when out networking, it’s hardly the most interesting option. And it all sounds like I have a scatter-gun approach to business rather than offer the whole digital content package.
    • Tailor it to my audience. This can be a great option if you’re looking to give your services a little sales boost. For example, when meeting a business owner with no social media presence, I’ll mention my social media services first.
    • Introduce myself as an entrepreneur. I’ll be honest – I’m uncomfortable with this term. Like the term ‘blogger’, I think it’s developed a bit of a reputation. It also feels like a label others should give you, not one you should give yourself.
    • Create a term. Recently, I’ve been trying out Digital Content Consultant. It covers social media and online content, and hopefully comes across as more professional than ‘I’m a freelancer who writes and tweets stuff’.

    I still don’t think I’ve found the right answer. In fact, the world of digital media changes so quickly that it’s hard to find a correct label that is applicable for more than a few months. But Digital Content Consultant seems to work for now.

    How do you introduce yourself as a freelancer?