Freelance Life

  • My favourite freelancing tools of 2016 (so far)

    freelancing tools

    Every once in a while, I like to share the freelancing tools, apps and resources that make my freelance life easier, smoother and more professional. This is especially the case now I’m a working mum and time is limited. Here are my favourite freelancing tools of 2016 so far.

    There are a couple of affiliate codes below, but I only recommend what I myself love – and in the case of the subscriptions/paid items, I do pay for them myself.

    Cloudpress


    Cloudpress was an Appsumo deal I picked up earlier in the year, and went on to build my coaching website with. It’s one of the best website builders I’ve tried, allowing very quick and easy drag and drop functions to create a professional result.

    Teachable

    I’ve been using Teachable for a while now to create and host my Freelance Lifestyle School courses, and I love how they’ve taken on all the suggestions put to them in the Facebook support group to constantly improve. The introduction of drip feed content in particular has been a real bonus. If you’re looking to start out in online courses, these are my recommended provider.

    Instapage

    Instapage is another page builder I’ve loved using recently, especially for webinar landing pages. Again, it’s simple to use, free for your first page and works well with WordPress.

    Receipt bank

    One thing I’ve been determined to do this year is get on top of my finances. Receipt Bank has certainly helped on the business front. Every time a receipt lands in my inbox (which is where most of my receipts come, whether they’re hosting and domain bills or Facebook ads), I forward it to my special Receipt Bank email. They then process it, categorise it and add it to my FreeAgent account. Much, much easier than printing them or adding them manually.

    Blinkist 

    I have a real addiction to buying business and self-development books, but rarely find the time to finish them. Blinkist was another Appsumo buy. It takes popular non-fiction books and summarises them into 10-15 minute audio or text summaries. So you can pick up the main takeaways, and then decide if you want to get the full book anyway.

    Clear Calm Space Community 

    It’s been really important for me this year to get to a better state of organisation. At the start of the year I joined Lisa’s Clear Calm Space Community program, and have made big strides in decluttering my home. Lisa tackles a new area each week, and suggests small, daily tasks to chip away at it. I still have a way to go, but it’s amazing the difference removing physical clutter can make to your mental wellbeing.
    Also, it means I’m not quite as worried that my son will swallow something he found under the sofa.

    Mastering Money Management

     
    While we’re talking about organising, I’ve also been tackling my money disorganisation. During my pregnancy, I was unable to work much due to being really unwell (yup, to all those who say “you’re pregnant not ill”, you can be both!) my accounts slipped and I had to pop a tax bill on a credit card. And then I let it lapse past its 0% period. To be honest, my approach to money needed a big shake up. Joining Jen Turrell’s Mastering Money Management community was the start of pulling my head out of the sand and making some long-term, grown up changes. Jen’s advice is realistic, easy to implement and takes out the fear around money.

    What freelancing tools, apps and resources have you found useful so far this year?

  • Getting back to a healthier freelance lifestyle 

    I’ve always thought that one of the key ingredients to a successful freelancing career is to be as healthy as possible (for your situation). I’m not talking about living on a sugar free diet, HIT training and taking a million supplements daily. What I mean is that you are your business’s biggest asset, and running yourself into the ground doesn’t benefit anyone and certainly won’t benefit your business in the long run. Self-care is just as essential as doing your invoicing, and pitching for work.

    I’ve been neglecting this recently as I adjust to being mum to a nearly five month old and running my business. It’s been tricky to balance the two, and at times its felt like as soon as I put Oscar down for his nap, I’m picking up my laptop and ‘panic working’ before he wakes again. Priorities change, and as I absolutely love being a mum I’m keen to create a balance that means I can spend quality time with him and still manage my workload

    Physically I’ve slipped into a bit of a habit of skipping lunch, snacking instead. He’s actually a fairly easy, happy baby and sleeps through at night, but often only sleeps for 45 minutes during the day, so I try and use that for catching up on emails rather than making lunch. Not ideal.

    Since November hit, I’ve been trying a few things to get back some balance and mojo for both my business and so I have the energy to really enjoy these precious first few months. Here are just a few of the things I’ve been doing to live a healthier freelance lifestyle.

    hellofreshmeals

    Diet and exercise

    • HelloFresh* kindly sent me one of their recipe boxes to try. I’ve definitely been in a rut recently with cooking and making dinners in particular, so I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed trying some new recipes. It also forced me to try some new vegetables and spices, which is never a bad thing. This is definitely something I’ll treat myself to every month or so to shake things up. I now use the HelloFresh app regularly for some meal inspiration and to shake things up a bit.
    • Making lunches the night before. Whether it’s a sandwich or a few pasta dishes for the next couple of days, making it before really helps me stick to eating lunches and keeping my energy up. It means all I have to do is grab it from the fridge.
    • Filling up a water bottle and taking it around with me during the day. I’m AWFUL at drinking water, and it’s often the cause of headaches for me. It’s a small, easy change to make but makes a huge difference.
    • I’ve downloaded a dance app and the SWORTKIT to fit in some 7 minute work outs. Additionally, one of the things that I’ve learnt from Gretchin Rubin’s book Better Than Before is the importance of making it harder to do bad habits. So if I want a naughty snack or treat, I have to do ten squats first.

    picjumbo.com_HNCK3991 (1)

    Working habits

    • Address my priorities. Quite often I panic and think I must work, but I’m not 100% sure what I’m supposed to be doing first. I’ve gone back to a habit of writing out my to do list, highlighting the top three things I have to do today, then doing the ‘frog’ first (if you’re not familiar with the Eat That Frog theory, there’s a great summary here)
    • Getting up an hour earlier than Oz. Working for an hour before I start the day with him really helps and eases a lot of the guilt so I can focus on being a mum. At the moment, I’m trying to do an hour before he wakes, an hour when he goes to bed and I get half a day on Wednesdays when my lovely mother-in-law babysits. If I can get some time at the start of the day and the end, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t during. It doesn’t always work (he’s been waking earlier his week due to a cold and teething), but even a handful of days a week will help
    • Timing my tasks. Without a doubt timing tasks, and crucially setting time limits for work, has had the biggest boost on my productivity and balance. It stops me going into a blind panic, and gives me focus.
    • I’m currently working through my coaching diploma, and part of it means I coach and am coached by another coach-to-be on the course. It means I’m setting regular goals and working on how I view problems.

    HNCK8953

    Mindset

    • Meditation nearly always gives me focus, but it’s easy to forget. On the days I can squeeze in an hour before Oz wakes up, I try to do five minutes of meditation
    • The biggest challenge I’m tackling is changing my mindset to accept that, for at least the next few months, I can’t do the same amount of work I was doing before and that’s ok.

    Is there any way you can boost your freelance lifestyle? I’d love to know in the comments about any new healthier habits you’re picking up.

    *HelloFresh sent me a recipe box of theirs for free, but I was not paid for this post.

  • How to run your business from your iPhone/iPad: Blogging

    StockholmEver since I had Oscar, the bulk of my online business is run from my iPhone or iPad. I thought it might be useful to share a few of the workflows I have in place to make creating, sharing and organising content easier – whether you have a little one or work on the go.

    First up, blog posts.

    Step 1: Draft it out

    Since becoming a mum, I’ve fully embraced drafting up either the bare bones of a post or the full post in Evernote on my phone or tablet. For example, with this post I brainstormed lots of blog post ideas that I really want to write, then create a draft format to help me flesh them out. You don’t have to use Evernote, Google Drive and WordPress’s own app are great), but I’ve found it the easiest to use with Siri.
    Using Siri is a game changer when it comes to writing posts now. I use it to transcribe by speaking into it using this button.
    siriblogpost
    (You can also use the record audio button to record it as an audio file and either turn it into a podcast or send it to someone on Fiverr to transcribe for you)
    I also use it to Google for other useful links or information.
    Step 2: Create your image
    Once I’ve drafted the blog post, I’ll switch to the Canva app on my iPad to create an image for the post. If I’m on my phone and just want a simple text image, I’ll use Instaquote. I get a lot of my images from Picjumbo (you don’t need to credit the images and they’re free) or buy them on Etsy or CreativeMarket if there are any great bundles.
    Step 3: Publish
    It’s perfectly possible to then take your post text and image and pop them into the WordPress app and hit publish. I have to confess though that I like to have a quick look at how it looks on a computer before I hit publish. If you’re like me and have a habit of forgetting to take the next step, schedule it on the app, and then check it on your laptop before it goes live.
    Step 4: Promote
     
    Finally, I have IFTTT recipes set up to promote it across social networks. One for Facebook, one for Pinterest and one for Google+. Once it’s live, I’ll also use Buffer to share it across Twitter a few times and into a few of my groups if relevant.

    Do you blog from your phone or tablet? Any apps you’d love to share? Leave them in the comments below!

  • How to overcome a freelancing setback

    shareasimage (33)Freelancing can be empowering, exciting and freeing. But it can also deal you with the odd whammy that leaves you feeling unconfident and a bit…well, a bit rubbish. It could be criticism from a client, a wobble when presenting something or a contract coming to an unexpected end. For me, a few weeks ago, it was a radio interview. I babbled, got my facts mixed up and came off the call wanting to faceplant a big slice of chocolate cake/cry. Thankfully it was a pre-recording, and I never tuned in to see if they used it, but it sent me into a bit of a flap and a confidence dip.

    So, I turned to the Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group. And they gave me a whole bundle of excellent advice and tips for what they do when they need to bounce back after a freelancing confidence bash.

    • Penny Golightly, one of my favourite frugal living bloggers, said “Don’t try to immediately flip into positive mode – let it out, have a cry, be sad, be angry, or whatever else you need. Give yourself a set amount of time to feel bad if you like”
    • Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence from Honey Bee Copywriting advised “To turn a negative into a positive, I usually find that a bad experience makes me feel a little more confident because even if it was bad, I didn’t die and ask myself ‘In a year, will this matter?’. The answer is usually ‘no’ because I’ll be doing something else really brave and the world’s focus will be on someone else”
    • Kathryn Hall, introvert expert at The Business Of Introverts, shared “Whenever things go wrong the absolute first thing I do is step back from work and have some ‘me’ time. I’ll do a bit of moping but generally I try and do something non-work related that will make me feel good and help to clear my thoughts. I love being out in the countryside and I’m a total introvert so for me that means going for a long hike in the fresh air on my own which always makes me feel better. I’m also a big fan of practicing gratitude and writing down my achievements to date can be helpful if my confidence has taken a knock. Looking forward to reading your post!”
    • Emily Jayne Phillips, my Birmingham-based stylist buddy, shared something her fiancé said “Just remember how many ‘bad days’ and set backs there were when you were in your ‘proper job’ (for me, I regularly used to have a cry when I got home and feel constantly frustrated!) compared to now. Everyone has set backs in our professional lives, and we’re lucky to be able to take more control of our careers as freelancers”
    • Megan Kerr, freelancer writer, also agreed about taking time out to deal with the emotional side “Really agree with taking some time to have the feels first, negative emotion gets a bad rep but we have to be allowed to feel stuff to be emotionally balanced.”
    • Jo Shock, the brilliant VA I work with, reminded me about perspective “even if it all seemed like waffle to you, that’s probably through the filter of your own expectations and understanding.”

    I completely agree with all the above. You have to take time to deal with the emotions, and if you’re anything like me, you get a big burst of adrenaline in that sort of situation which can power you to do all sorts of stuff. Er, let’s just say my office got a big declutter that day. But getting out of the house for a run, walk or simply to get away from your laptop for a bit will help. I also find chatting it out with other freelancers or loved ones helps, as does revisiting some previous success stories. If you don’t already, keep a little folder in your email account or Dropbox/Google Drive of your top moments as a freelancer. If you’re reflective, you may also find writing it all down helps to brain dump it out of your head and onto paper.

    And I promise, if you’re feeling rubbish right now, that feeling will list. Probably in a matter of hours!

    One final thing to add. Often, situations like this are there to highlight an area you can improve on. For me, it’s improving my knowledge of maternity pay for freelancers. For others, it might be developing a regular pitching habit to make sure you’re never without work, taking the emotion out of client feedback and seeing the learning opportunity, or simply understanding what situations/clients/decisions are not suited to you and your business. Every negative situation is a learning opportunity.

    Have you had a freelancing setback? How do you deal with these situations?

     

  • The September challenges

        
    It’s my favourite month of the year! I adore September. Not only do you get that wonderful ‘fresh new notebooks/new school year’ feeling, but it’s also the start of my favourite season – autumn. September just feels so full of opportunities.

    I’m now 8.5 weeks into motherhood and starting to get a bit more of a routine. It’s lovely to be able to spend time with Oscar and yet still have a little time to do a little blogging. He’s having a nap now, so I wanted to squeeze in a blog post about my plans for September, both on a personal basis and for my business.

    Work

    • Weekly podcast show. The Freelancer’s Teabreak returned last week listen here, and I’ve already recorded several for this month. I want to carry on with a weekly podcast.
    • A new #periscopemyprogress challenge. Last week using the #Periscopemyprogress challenge I managed to set up a great workflow for my podcast. I’m going to do it again this month to add a new e-course to The Freelance Lifestyle school
    • Wake at 6am twice a week and grab a morning each weekend to focus entirely on work
    • Put aside an hour to brain du,p and map out my business plans for the next six months.

    Personal

    • Post-natal Pilates x 3 a week. I’m using a free online trial from Joanna Helcke and finding that it’s a great way to ease back in. 
    • 2x 30 min walks a week. This doesn’t include general walking about e.g doing the shop. I can’t wait to go for a walk in the park as autumn really gets underway.
    • Get back into batch cooking and meal planning. Fail to plan and you plan to fail and all that. I’m aiming to lose 6lbs this month.
    • Go through my wardrobe and clear out everything that doesn’t bring me joy (yup, I’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying)
    • Get Oscar into the routine of sleeping until 6. He’s currently doing 11-5, which we’ve been working on since week 5 when he was doing 11-2:30. We’ve been using the Baby Secrets book and routines and he’s thriving on it. I’d love to get to the point of him sleeping 10-6 by October. 

    What goals do you have for October?

  • My first month as a (freelance) mum

    OscarHow are we already nine days into August? The last few weeks have absolutely flown by, and I can honestly say they’ve been some of the most challenging but best weeks of my life (sleep deprivation and dirty nappies aside). I’m afraid I’m going to indulge in a bit lot of baby talk in this post, so if you’d rather stick to general freelance chat, may I suggest having a browse of some of the Day In The Life Of A Freelancer posts?

    If you’ve read my previous post on pregnancy and pre-natal depression, and the struggles and concerns I had, you’ll maybe understand why it’s such a huge relief that parenthood has been so, well…lovely. I have to confess, I’ve become a bit of a mumbot and I’m completely in love with Oscar, which has taken me by surprise a little as someone who wasn’t really that maternal before. In all honesty, after struggling during pregnancy I think my family, Pete and I all thought the first few months would be really hard for me, but it’s all come surprisingly naturally.

    Obviously, it hasn’t been entirely rosy all the time. Labour was traumatic, complicated and took three days, and both Oscar and I ended up staying in hospital for almost a week after his birth. For about two weeks afterwards, I was pretty traumatised by the experience, however in retrospect staying in was a blessing as we really benefited from lots of time with the brilliant midwives at Frimley hospital. I honestly don’t know how first time mums can cope in those first few days if they’re ejected just a few hours after giving birth. Having that hospital stay as a buffer has undoubtedly helped me settle into motherhood much easier.

    Once we left hospital, those wonderful baby blues hit for a few days, although these were nowhere near as bad as how I’d felt during pregnancy. But since then, it’s been kind of brilliant – and that’s largely down to getting lucky in the baby lottery with this little dude. We’ve been really fortunate that he’s a really chilled little guy, and he’s been taking naps during the day and sleeping pretty well at night. We’ve started to get him into the routine of going down at 7pm and waking for feeds at 11pm and around 3am, which means I get a precious few hours in the evening to relax with Pete and do a little bit of my own stuff (which suits my introvert nature perfectly). Although I’m planning to take a few months off before properly returning to work, I’m finding that keeping my finger in the odd pie and doing some planning for the future of my business has helped me feel ‘normal’ much faster. Which is why this blog has undergone a little update/spruce. I reached a point at four weeks when I realised that all I could talk about was Oscar and baby stuff, so being able to do a bit of brainstorming for work has helped me feel like I could potentially hold a half-normal conversation again some point soon.

    It’s hard to explain how different life is, but also how not a huge amount has changed. Thanks to the anxiety and depression I went through at the end of pregnancy, my expectations for the first few months were pretty low. I thought I’d be a bag of nerves and stress, struggling with sleep deprivation and unsure of whether I’d be able to bond. In reality, it’s all come surprising naturally. Dare I say it, it’s been fun! I’ve laughed more in the last few weeks than I probably have in years. I’ve probably cried more too, but the happy times outweigh that. I’ve definitely bonded with him, and fallen in love with my husband even more than before. Another concern for me was whether it would put a strain on our relationship which I really cherish, but seeing him with Oscar has only further strengthened it. I think having the support of him, and both my family and his family, has made the transition much easier.

    On the topic of sleep deprivation, it’s a bitch – but I’ve actually found it easier to cope with than the shattering exhaustion of pregnancy, which never let up (something my mum guru and friend Leanne told me about but I didn’t fully understand until now). At least now a quick 45-60 minute nap usually leaves me feeling much better. Obviously this is partly because of being lucky that he doesn’t suffer from colic at the moment, which makes sleep so much harder.

    I don’t want to paint an entirely rosy picture, but I also wanted to share a positive story after a pretty negative pregnancy and labour. There have been challenges along the way. He had jaundice early on and I had to have a blood transfusion (we looked like Bart Simpson and Caspar the ghost together) and due to lots of issues with breastfeeding we spent the first few weeks feeding him with a mix of expressed milk, formula and straight from the breast when I could. By the time we reached four weeks, we switched to formula only, and it’s a decision I’m really comfortable with now – and Oscar is thriving on it. It’s also meant that Pete and both of our families have been able to feed him and have lots of bonding time with him, plus it’s given Pete and me the freedom to have a couple of dates while Oscar’s doting aunts or grandparents look after him. It’s a personal choice and I have a lot of admiration for those that do breastfeed for longer, but for us the decision to switch to formula only was the best one. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make though – especially as there’s still a lot of guilt placed on those that don’t breastfeed. Being a mother has definitely helped me be more assertive and strong about my decisions though, something I’m hoping will apply to work too (I’ll also be using some of these tips from Hayley’s post).

    On the freelance front, having a baby is a pretty great way to have an enforced break from things – and gain some clarity. When I can, I’ve been filling a notebook with lots of ideas I’ve got buzzing round my brain. While it’s tempting to start a few new projects, I’m trying to hold off and do a little more development and planning. I’m also using feeding times to listen to some audiobooks, including The Big Leap which is really opening my eyes to ‘upper limits’. I’d really recommend reading it if you feel like you sometimes self-sabotage when things get ‘too good’. In fact, I’m trying to apply the principles now as I feel very lucky with Oscar and keep expecting a big dose of bad luck to come along. Arguably I had that bad luck with the pregnancy and labour, so perhaps he’s the pay off? I know as his naps in the day start to decrease, it will get more challenging – but I’m also excited about the smiles, milestones and bundle of new experiences that come with it.

    Do you have any recommendations for other great business reads/listens? Let me know in the comments!

    So, that’s my first baby proper babble. I’ve got some more posts coming up soon which aren’t baby related, so don’t panic – I’m hopefully not going to become a total baby bore.

    Are you a parent? What did it teach you about yourself? Did it help you develop any new skills?

  • 5 Ways To Treat Yourself As A Freelancer

    One of the perks of being a freelancer is that you have more flexibility to add in little treats to your day. Often though, we run ourselves ragged when self-employed, and forget to pamper ourselves (which, in the long term, isn’t great for you or your business). In fact, I have a reminder that pops up on the first of the month with the question ‘what will you do this month that’s fun?’ to remind myself to book in something.

    Here are just five ways you can add some treats into your freelance life:

    afternoonteabus

    Meet a client for afternoon tea

    I’m shamelessly stealing this idea from Rosie from One Man Band Accounting, but if you offer a premium consulting service, you could arrange to meet your client for afternoon tea.

    Afternoontea.co.uk has some great deals on, including some for the Afternoon Tea Bus (which I reviewed over on The High Tea Cast last year).

    In fact, try to think outside the box with all your meetings. Meet at a fun cafe you’ve been dying to try or even go for a walk if it’s a nice day.

    Go for a spa day

    Spa days are brilliant on two levels – they’re fantastic at winding down and refreshing your body and mind. But more importantly, YOU CAN’T TAKE YOUR MOBILE PHONE/TABLET/LAPTOP WITH YOU. Enforced technology turn off. Bliss.

    Have a look on Wahanda for some great spa deals (my personal favourite spas are Nirvana Spa in Wokingham and, for a real treat, Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire)

    Invest in really, really good tea and biscuits

    If you’re working from home, don’t settle for own brand tea bags and basic biscuits. Your teabreak deserves better. I’ve just discovered you can sign up for a gourmet tea subscription too – marvellous.

    Splurge on your freelancing uniform

    When I’m working from home, I tend to wear a form of ‘freelancing uniform’ – often a comfy top I can smarten up with a necklace or funky jacket (for when I have to jump on a conference call) and usually a pair of lounge trousers or harem pants. So far, a lot of the items have been from Primark, but I’m starting to upgrade them to higher quality fabrics. I’m a huge fan of Next’s harem pants and have them in several colours, and Oasis has some beautiful kimono jackets which are great for throwing on over a vest top.

    Essentially, invest in your wardrobe like you would if you worked in an office.

    Outsource

    If you read the blog regularly, you’ll know I’m a big fan of outsourcing stuff in your life. From your accounts to your cleaning, outsourcing the areas you don’t excel at is just good business sense. Often these luxuries aren’t as expensive as you’d think too – a cleaner can be from just £10 an hour, and a virtual assistant to offload some of the areas you’re not great in can start from £15-25 an hour (and they’ll usually get the job done much faster than you will). I’ve talked a little more about outsourcing in a previous podcast, but the best way to get started is to write down everything you have to do, then highlight the things you hate doing and put off. Those are the things to outsource so you can focus on the things that you rock at.

    How do you treat yourself as a freelancer?

  • Say hello to Oscar 

    Just a quick post today to introduce my baby son Oscar David Ward, who arrived on the 2nd July weighing 8.2lbs. So far, he’s been a brilliant baby, despite a tricky labour and pregnancy, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’m adjusting to and enjoying these first few weeks (partly because he’s a pretty chill baby so far). It’s been lovely spending a few weeks off with Oscar and my husband, who has been fantastic. 

    I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline, ranging from maternity leave as a freelancer to cover while I cut back on work for a while and how to run a business in short bursts (which I’m currently calling ‘naptivities’)

    But for now, I’m off to have a cuddle with this little chap!