Freelance Challenges

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge: Make a list of your dream clients

    It’s that time of year when we all start to reflect on what we’ve done so far this year. I know I’ve been doing that a lot recently, after a tough but really interesting year. It’s easy to get to the point where you find yourself treading water, relying on your current client base and not thinking about the future. So now is the time to reassess what you’re currently doing, and what you want to do going forward.

    This week’s task is a simple one to get the planning procedure rolling. Make a list of your dream clients. It might be a list of all the brands you’d love to work for, or an outline of the kind of client you want to work with. This will help you  focus your plan for 2013.

    Here’s some things to think about when drawing up your list:

    • Do you want to work with big or small businesses? A mixture of both?
    • Which brands do you admire? Why?
    • Do you want your dream clients to have a particular ethical approach?
    • Would you prefer to work with charities?
    • Do you want to work with a certain sector e.g. fashion/tech/food?
    • What would you like to bring to those clients?

    So, who would be on your dream client list? Share your thoughts below!

  • Weekly Freelance Challenge: Planning time off for Christmas

    Christmas is just around the corner. Frankly, I’ve been counting down the days since August, this is an acceptable level of Christmas craziness, yes? Our thoughts are turning to the ton of gift-buying, turkey-cooking, chocolate-consuming in the weeks ahead. If you’re freelance, chances are you’re also thinking about winding down your workload so you can have a little time off over Christmas.

    Here’s how this usually works out for me:

    • 1st December: Hurrah, just a few weeks to Christmas! All this work will totally be done by then. Think I’ll take a gift shopping break. And make some mince pies.
    • 8th December: Ah, extra workload from clients wanting to get things done before the new year.
    • 15th December: Writes To Do list of everything to do in the next ten days. Begins to panic.
    • 24th December: AAAAAAH ALL THE WORK TO DO IN AND STILL DOING IT! At this stage, I’m a grumpy, snappy mess. Not exactly feeling the festive cheer.

    This won’t be happening this year. This year, I have a plan. It’s foolproof*. It includes doing the following:

    • Ask clients for their expected workload at the end of November, to plan ahead and work out how much time I’ll need. Be firm that additional work can only be requested up until the 8th December.
    • Email all clients to let them know which days I won’t be working over the holiday period.
    • Try to get ahead in that first week, by clearing my diary and focussing on getting ahead as much as possible.
    • Accepting that this won’t be the time to start new projects. January is that time.
    • Plan each day. Now is the time to get super-organised and plan out each day to make sure you’re as efficient as possible.

    Is this your first Christmas as a freelancer? Or are you a seasoned pro? How are you going to plan ahead for the Christmas working period?

    *There will still be panicking. There will always be panicking. Just less of it.

  • The Freelance Weekly Challenge: Take a tech break

    This week’s Weekly Freelance Challenge is an easy one. In theory.

    This week, I want you to schedule in some tech-free time. Whether it be an evening, a day or a whole weekend. Personally, I think one of the hardest things about freelancing is switching off from work. Mainly because the constant stream of tweets, Facebook notifications, emails and stats are addictive.

    So! Switch off your computer, pop your phone on silent (or even better, I dare ya!, turn it off) and ignore your iPad for a few hours. Now go do something fun.

    Use that free time to do something fun. Like:

    • Take the time to cook a meal with your partner/friends/family, and sit down at the table together to eat it. While you’re cooking, you might want to do some meal planning.
    • Make a list of Christmas presents to buy. I adore this spreadsheet idea from A Thrifty Mrs (but do it on paper for now)
    • Go for a walk somewhere. It’s autumn, perfect for nature walks. I’m putting together a nice little board of autumnal delights on Pinterest.
    • All those Pinterest craft tutorials you’ve been saving up? Print them out before you turn off your computer, then do one or two of them.
    • Catch up with friends. Go shopping. Have a pampering session. Hit a workout class together. Y’know, take the socialisation offline.
    • Volunteer. I rounded up some of the best fun ways to get involved with your community over on Dork Adore, and if you’re 14-25 there are plenty of opportunities on Vinspired too.
    • Have a whole day in bed, with a stack of magazines, books, your favourite food and, if you must, your favourite box set. It’s tech, but not quite as bad as your computer, iPhone or iPad.
    • If you have to do something work-related, get on with your accounts or give your desk a spring clean.
    Do anything. Just don’t check your emails.

    Will you be scheduling in some tech downtime this week? How did you do on last week’s challenge to do something scary?

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge: Do something that scares you

    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.

  • The Weekly Freelancing Challenge: Eat That Frog (or how to get the tough stuff done)

    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).

    (Thanks to Rosie at One Man Band Accounting for the suggestion of this topic!)

    What task have you been putting off? Let me know in the comments below! 

  • The (return of the) Weekly Freelance Challenge: Meal planning

    Oops. Dropped the ball on this series.

    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.

    Food.

    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.

    Get scheduling

    Meal planning in Wunderlist

    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

    Breakfast burritos being made
    Breakfast burritos in progress

    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.

    And….relax

    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.

    Resources

    • 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.
    • Three bloggers, plus Pinterest, inspired me to get into meal planning. A Thrifty Mrs wrote a great guide to meal planning earlier this year. The Lean Times posts her menu plans for the week every Monday, along with recipe links, as does OrgJunkie who has a HUGE range of resources on meal planning.
    • 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? 

  • How to set your prices as a freelancer

    how to set your prices

    This week, it’s all about the money. The benjamins. The moolah. The dough. Y’know, the stuff that helps us pay our bills (and pay for shoes).

    I got myself into a bit of a tizz recently, as I was doing a lot of work, but the payoff didn’t really equal it. After a chat with the wise and wonderful JJ from This Little Lady Went To London, I had a look at what I was charging for my work. While my daily rate is about right, my packages were quite a bit cheaper than the competition. So, I’ve raised them! It’s a bit of a scary thing to do, but hopefully my current prices now reflect the time and skill I put into my work.

    So! My challenge this week for you is to do the same. Are you charging the same prices you were when you first started? It’s very common for newbies to charge very little or nothing at all at the start before they gain some confidence. Or perhaps you’re concerned that charging higher rates will cut your customer base. That’s true, but wouldn’t you rather provide a high quality service at justifiable prices?

    Here are a few things to do to decide on your prices (and don’t be afraid to reassess your prices every six months!)

    • Have a watch of this Marie Forleo video for a guide on how to set your prices:

    • Next, check out the London Freelance Fees Guide, which covers lots of freelancing roles and the average price for them.
    • There’s also a great guide on Creative Pool that I’ve mentioned before that has some handy up-to-date prices.
    • There are also some methods for working out your prices in this Lifehacker piece.
    • Lucky Bitch (affil) has a great set of free tips on how to charge premium prices
    • Get researching. Have a look on the websites of those who offer similar services. Many, like mine, list their prices. How do they compare?
    • Finally, ask your friends and family – ideally those in the industry. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who will give me an honest opinion.
    That’s your challenge for this week. Have a go, then let me know how you get on…

  • Poll: How do you maintain a work life balance?

    This week’s poll addresses a problem a lot of freelancers have: maintaining a work life balance. Funny really, considering how many people go freelance in order to work around their family or friends. But emails, flexible deadlines and varying workloads mean that it can be hard to tell where and when work ends and life begins.

    I’ve talked in the past about how to improve work life balance. Whether it be outsourcing parts of your life, dealing with freelance fatigue or making sure you fit exercise into your freelance life. I suspect that very few of us manage to get that work life balance perfect, all the time.

    But now it’s over to you! Let me know how you make sure you get work life balance  (you can choose multiple answers)- and if the option isn’t below, leave a comment below and share your balancing secrets.

    [poll id=”10″]

    None of these? Let me know how you do it below!

    (Image via Flickr user kowitz)