Freelance Challenges

  • The Freelance Lifestyle Tea Break Challenge: Get paid faster!

    This week’s Freelance Lifestyle Tea Break Challenge is about something a lot of freelancers worry about. We spend hours trying to deal with it. It’s one of the biggest problems freelancer face. It makes us envious of those that get a set payday every month.

    Late payments from clients.

    Chasing clients for payments is one of the most frustrating parts of being freelance. Chances are, you’ve heard a dozen different excuses as to why a client doesn’t pay on time.

    But there are two steps you can take to either improve the speed of their payment, or discourage late payers. When I put these two steps into place, 60% of my clients started paying my invoices within one week of receiving the invoice. These were clients that previously avoided paying my invoices within 30 days – so this made a big difference to my business.

    Want to know what those two steps are? Check out this week’s three-minute, Freelance Lifestyle Tea Break Challenge

    Do  you use these two steps? What results have you seen?

  • The Weekly Freelance Lifestyle Challenge comes to YouTube!

    freelance lifestyle weekly challenge

    One of the things I’ve loved doing here on the Freelance Lifestyle is the weekly challenges. I’m a big fan of setting little personal challenges, and it’s great to see many readers enjoying them too.

    One of my personal challenges this year is to do more public speaking. I’ll be speaking at Cybher in June, but I want to get a little more YouTubing under my belt too. So, I’ve turned the Weekly Freelance Lifestyle Challenges into the Freelance Lifestyle Tea Break Challenge on YouTube. They’re just three minutes long, so you can watch them during your tea break.

    I’ve done a few YouTube things before, but this is my first proper move into it for The Freelance Lifestyle, so please be kind! Any constructive tips are more than welcome too.

    This week, I’m talking about the old school SWOT analysis, and how it can help your business. Fancy taking part? Comment below with how you’ve got on with this challenge, let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #teabreakchallenge or send me a video response!

     

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge: Create a freelance network

    freelance lifestyle weekly challenge

    Happy new week everyone! I don’t know about all of you, but the last couple of weeks have been a bit dark and dull for me. Being stuck indoors with the snow hasn’t really helped. But yesterday’s burst of sunshine has got me excited about work and life again.

    This week, I want to talk about creating a freelance network. One of the things about freelancing, is that you can develop a wide range of skills for business. You can focus on social media and blogging (like me), but develop skills in PR and graphic design too.

    But the reality is, you can’t offer a client everything they need. Not at a high quality level anyway, when you’re on your own. So, it’s worthwhile creating a network of freelance contacts who you can refer a client to. For example, I have a digital partnership with a freelance PR friend, Sally Todd. I refer my clients who want PR work done to her, and she refers clients who want social media or blogging to me. That way, we can provide a variety of skills and services to each client – which means they’re more likely to stick around too! When one of my clients is looking for a graphic designer, I send them to Michelle Allen or Caroline Pole. When people need help with tax returns and account, I send them over to Rosie at One Man Band Accounting (as a bonus, she gives clients homemade brownies!)

    Creating a freelance network can increase your referrals, give clients a better service and give you a lovely support network for when you’re struggling with a freelance issue.

    The Challenge

    So, this week, the challenge is to contact one other freelancer who offers a different service to you, and ask if you can refer any relevant work to them in the future. Hopefully, they’ll return the favour!

    Do you have a freelance network?

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge: Screw the resolutions

    freelance lifestyle weekly challenge

    Today, most people go back to work. Begrudgingly in many cases, I suspect (actually I know this for a fact – my Twitter feed was full of miserable people). Keeping all those new resolutions can be a lot trickier when work stress is piled on, and that slice of chocolate cake, glass of wine or skipping the gym for an evening on the sofa will be all the more appealing after a commute to work.

    So, here’s my suggestion. Chuck out the resolutions. Trying to start ten new resolutions in one month is asking for trouble. Instead, grab a piece of paper and write out ten goals for 2013. Then split them into monthly tasks. THEN split them into even smaller tasks, to do weekly (if needed).

    Additionally, throw in a fun goal for each month. Is February all about upping your fruit and vegetable intake? Throw in a dinner party goal at the end of the month, or splurge on a little herb garden for the kitchen.

    I’d love to hear what your 2013 goals are, so please do share them in the comments below!

     

  • Free Printable! The Weekly Freelance Challenge: Does your time/work ratio work for 2013?

    The end of the year is a great opportunity to take stock and decide what to do in the coming year. For me, it’s been a feast and famine year. I lost three main blogging clients in the space of a month thanks to budget cuts, which led to me looking at what I’m currently doing and readjusting it. After listening to Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour-Work-Week, I realised the bulk of my income was coming from social media work, but the bulk of my time was spent doing blogging work. I was working evenings and weekends trying to keep up with blog posts, when I could take on half the number of social media clients for at least the same amount of income – and have time to dedicate to other things. Fairly important in particular this year, with a wedding to arrange in April. Additionally, I found my passion in 2012 sat with social media, so it seemed like the most logical move.

    As a result, I now have more time to blog for sites I really love, like Dork Adore and The High Tea Cast, as well as The Freelance lifestyle. I’ll also have the time in 2013 to work on some projects I’ve been dying to do.

    So, my challenge to you for the first week of 2013 is to work out where your income is coming from, and how hard you’re working to get that income. Are you working all the hours you can find for something that isn’t particularly lucrative? Is there another way you can work, or another income stream you can investigate?

    To make it easier, I’ve created the below free printable:

    free printable

    All you need to do is:

    • Fill in the tasks you do regularly in the Current Tasks section. For instance, you might blog, carry out social media management and graphic design for your clients.
    • Fill in the time you spend and the income you earn for each of these tasks in the right box.
    • This should give you a better idea of which tasks are better to focus on. Write these tasks in the third box, and include any additional income streams you might think of (for example, teaching or ebooks).
    • Finally, fill in all the things you would do if you have time, in the final box. These could vary from volunteering to spending more time with family.

    The reason I’ve added in the last section, is because I know most freelancers don’t just work for the money. However, it’s easy to fall into the habit of working for work’s sake. By stating achievements OTHER than work that you want to fulfil, it gives you something to focus your efforts on so you’re working to live – not living to work.

    Are you re-adjusting how you work this year? What do you want to do aside from your freelance work? Leave a comment to let me know what you’re hoping to achieve. 

  • The Freelance Weekly Challenge: Delete, unsubscribe, sort (your emails)

    How much of your day do you spend dealing with emails? If you’re anything like me, you spend far too much of it reading and deleting – particularly the latter. Some of it isn’t controllable – as a blogger and journalist, 50% of my emails are press releases. But other bits can be removed or redistributed elsewhere to deal with.

    Dealing with an overwhelming inbox? Here are my top tips for getting it back under control:

    • Unsubscribe from the ones you no longer read. You can either do this as and when you get them, or leave your inbox for a couple of days and unsubscribe from a whole batch. Most emails have an unsubscribe button at the bottom. If not, drop the sender a quick email to ask if they could remove you from their list.
    • Set up some email filters. Check out my post on setting up email filers to find out how. I’ve got filters for daily deals, LinkedIn alerts, Google Alerts and sale alerts (the latter is more about saving my money than my sanity).
    • Got 400 unread emails from earlier this year? Delete them. If you haven’t read them by now, you probably never will. And if they were really important, someone would have followed up on them by now. Delete, delete, delete.
    • While you’re in your email, have a look at your signature. Is it up-to-date? I rather like WiseStamp for this.

    What’s your inbox detox plan?

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge: do an inspiration audit

    Recently, I’ve been struggling to whip up any enthusiasm for work. Treading water. This is probably an inevitable part of being a freelancer – sometimes you get a little bored, and need to do something to bring back all the inspiration and excitement.

    Last week, I decided to do something about it. I carried out an inspiration audit*.

    An inspiration audit is an opportunity to look around you and decide what things are inspiring you, and what things are dragging you down. Personally, when I’m inspired, I’m a bundle of excited energy, ready to take on various products and enjoy them. When I don’t have enough inspiration in my life, I feel tired, stressed, grumpy and generally lethargic.

    I fully believe that surrounding yourself with inspiring things makes life much happier.

    Is this all getting a bit fluffy? Stick with me. It’s not entirely crazy.

    So, last week I started by writing a list of things that made me happy. Please note, these are all things that make me happy – your list will probably be completely different:

    • Magazines with brains – Psychologies, The Simple Things, Gathered. Highly recommend all of these if you want to get your brain cogs turning.
    • Audiobooks – I am seemingly incapable of just doing one thing at a time, so cooking/bathing/driving is often accompanied by an audiobook. These days, it’s the only way I can finish a book.
    • Great playlists – I have a playlist on my iPod for every mood. Music is one of my favourite ways to re-energise.
    • Twitter – full of inspiring people, interesting info and great discussions.
    • Google+ – same as Twitter, and also great for Google+ hangouts.
    • Pinterest – there’s something both soothing and inspiring about making boards full of various things (even if I’ll only make a few of the items I pin).
    • Walking outdoors – as a country girl, nothing makes me happier than taking a walk, especially now it’s autumnal and crispy outside. I haven’t done enough of this recently.
    • Baking – throw ingredients into a bowl, mix, throw in oven and in half an hour you’ll have a delicious smelling house and afternoon tea. What could be more inspiring?
    • Blogs – reading other blogs is a constant source of inspiration.
    • Spending time with family – this should really be at the top of my list. My parents and sister are pretty inspiring people to be around.

    Then I wrote a list of things that make me unhappy, or saps me of energy:

    • Facebook – from a personal point of view, I don’t enjoy Facebook any more. It has a general negative feeling, so I’m looking into the possibility of just using it for business.
    • Drinking – I don’t really drink much these days, as more than a glass of wine makes me feel very ill. Also, alcohol is a depressant, so I generally found I felt awful the next day.
    • Unneeded drama – I have a fairly low patience level for drama. Why make life more difficult?
    • Magazines ‘for women’ – Cosmo, Glamour, Vogue. That’s enough overpriced fashion and awful sex advice for me thanks.

    After a week of doing this, I woke up yesterday with a pile of ideas, that familiar excitement, energy and enthusiasm. Identifying what things I wanted to fill my life with, and what things I wanted to rid my life of (where possible) gave me some clarity of mind.

    Your Weekly Challenge

    So, now it’s your turn! Make a list of all the things that inspire you and the things that don’t. Then try to remove as many of the uninspiring things as possible. If you can’t remove it, try and rework it so it’s a little more interesting. Fed up of spending your weekends catching up on housework? See if you have the budget to hire a cleaner for a couple of hours a week. Boring admin piling up? Make a cake, but promise yourself you’re not allowed a slice until it’s done.

    Are you feeling inspired at the moment? What inspires you?

    *Totally made up term.

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge: Pitching to your dream clients

    It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the latest freelance challenge. For those new to the blog (welcome!), the Weekly Freelance Challenge is a post where I set a challenge for myself and my fellow freelancers. Sometimes, the challenges are purely business-related, and sometimes they’re about achieving a better work/life balance.

    This week is a follow up on last week’s challenge. Last week, I asked you to write a list of your dream clients. Did you find an hour to scribble down who you’d love to work for? Excellent. This week, I want you to pitch to one of them.

    If you haven’t pitched to anyone before, this can be a hugely intimidating task. Let’s go old school though, and break it down into ‘bite-sized chunks’ (anyone else having GCSE revision flashbacks?)

    • Look at what the potential client is currently doing. Do your research – better to be knowledgable about their business than look clueless if they ask further questions. Have a look on LinkedIn, google the company and check out the industry news if you don’t already.
    • Look at what they might be missing, and how you can help. Try and nail down exactly why what you can offer is unique. It might be a particular case study, a contact or information they can’t find elsewhere.
    • Draft an email. Clients potentially get lots of pitches, so keep it brief, to the point and clear.
    • If you’re pitching to an editor, give them a hint of what you want to write about, but don’t go into too much detail. Sadly some magazines and newspapers will say no to you, but give your idea to their in-house team as freelance budgets are tight.
    • Don’t talk prices. Yet. But do give them a link to your website or portfolio. If your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and filled with recommendations from previous clients, send that too.
    • Get a couple of friends/family members to check it through. Then hit send.
    Don’t forget to think outside the box. Send a client an infographic of your pitch, a video or a podcast. It’s not always suitable, but sometimes it can help you stand out.
    I’m going to be doing this later this week. If you’ve pitched before, I’d love to hear any tips you might have – just leave them in the comments below.

    Will you be taking part in this week’s Freelance Challenge?