Freelance Personal Development

  • Five people every freelancer needs in their life

    freelance support network

    Edit: This is a blog post from 2011, updated in 2018. 

    A good support structure is so important when you’re a freelancer, or you’re self-employed, particularly when you’re starting out. Having that freelance support network structure can help you get through the tough times, give you the inspiration you need when you’re starting a new project and help you celebrate your successes.

    I’ve come up with five types of people you need in your support network, who I’ve described below. What do you think? Any you would add?

    The Supporter
    The Supporter is the person that is always there, through the rough times and the good times. This is likely to be your partner, parents or your oldest best friend. The Supporter always has your back, and stops you feeling out of control when everything gets a bit much. They might not know your industry or understand your job, but they’ll understand how important it is to you.

    The Energiser
    The Energiser is the person that has a bundle of enthusiasm for your new idea or project, and helps motivate you to really push forward with it. In the company of an Energiser, you might find yourself trying or doing things you’d never normally have the guts to try.

    The Critic
    While The Energiser is a great friend to have, it can often be dangerous to listen to them alone. Which is where The Critic comes in. This is usually someone a little older and wiser, who can give you positive criticism  of your project or plan, to help you spot any flaws early on. My Dad usually fulfils this role, although previous employers and colleagues are also often Critics.

    Approaching The Critic with a project close to your heart is one of the scariest things to do, but you’ll appreciate their honesty long-term.

    The Alien
    The Alien is the person in your group that has nothing to do with your industry, and doesn’t really get it. You need an Alien in your group for two reasons.

    • On a professional note, if The Alien doesn’t understand your project or plan, you know you need to work on making the pitch or business plan clearer. Same goes for a blog post or design. Having that outsider eye can help you see how the perception of your project will be to everyone else.
    • On a personal note, spending time with The Alien usually means you don’t talk about work much. Which, as discussed in a previous blog post, is always a good thing occasionally. Talking shop all the time can be boring for others. I’m totally guilty of doing this at times. It’s only when I see the husband’s eyes glaze over that I realise I need to change the subject.

    The Role Model
    The Role Model is, unsurprisingly, the person you aspire to be in five, 10 or 20 years time. Whether you’ve got yourself a mentor or coach, you’re in touch with an old employer you admire, or you’re aiming to take over the family business, a Role Model can be a well of information and advice.

    You can find lots of lovely people that fit these categories over in the Facebook Group. Come join us! 

    Recognise any of these in your support group (or recognise yourself)? Got any more to add? Let me know in the comments.

  • My favourite freelancing reads

    When I first found out I was pregnant, I had visions of curling up with some freelancing reads while the baby napped.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Yeah, that didn’t happen. I mean, he actually was (and still is) a good napper. But reading felt like a waste of time when the house was a mess and I had work I wanted to get done. But thanks to audiobooks and fitting in the odd evening session of reading, I’m surprised to see I’ve read more than I thought in the last year. And quite a few of them are books that have made a big impact on my life. For me, it’s important to take something away from a book to put into action. So often, I’ll read a book and enjoy it, but not feel like it’s enhanced my life in any way after.

    So, I put together some of my favourites in a video (links to each of the books below).

     

    What are your favourite freelancing reads recently? What books have led to you making real changes? Let me know in the comments!

  • 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 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?

     

  • 5 ways to be more assertive at work

    A few of the lovely freelancers in my Facebook community have kindly agreed to contribute some guest posts while I’m busy with my biggest project yet – looking after my newborn son! I’m so excited about Hayley’s post below on being assertive as I know it’s a topic a lot of freelancers I know struggle with. Have a read, then let me know in the comments how you plan to be a little more assertive. 

    shareasimage (30)Why is that on some occasions you have absolutely no issue in saying exactly how you feel and standing your ground, yet on others you walk away wishing you’d been able to say no, share what you really thought and just been little more assertive? Sometimes the word “assertive” can be negatively mistaken for dominating conversation, always getting your own way or always being right. But in reality isn’t assertiveness really about having the confidence to ensure your opinion is heard, feeling like an equal in the relationship and being able to state your case where necessary?

    So here’s 5 tips that will help you to assert yourself more confidently and with real authenticity in those more difficult moments

    1. Remember that power comes from within!

    Job status, seniority, wealth are all typically things people associate with power. But if you base your definition of power on external factors then what happens when these elements are stripped away? Seeing power as coming from within, sourced from your strengths and your experience, allows you to feel powerful at any given time and making you less likely to feel intimidated by those who may try to use their seniority, status or even wealth as power over you. If you feel less powerful with certain individuals or in certain situations, spend some time exploring what it is about these particular people or occasions. Think about the actions you could take to prepare yourself beforehand in order to feel more confident.

    2. Use neutral language

    If you find it difficult to give negative feedback or share how you feel about something for fear of upsetting others, then try using objective language. You’ll find this makes the conversation much less personal for the individual on the receiving end and stops you from feeling as though you’re attacking them. Avoiding judgemental terms such as “You should / you shouldn’t” or “You make me feel” or “I’m disappointed ” and replacing them with more neutral phrases such as “When I hear the words ….. the impact is that I feel……it would be helpful for me if” will make the conversation feel less confrontational.

    3. Think about the other perspective

    Before proposing new ideas or sharing alternative viewpoints, try to think about how the other person may receive the information. Think about their current situation, what else may they be dealing with and when would be a good time for you speak to them. By spending time understanding things from their perspective, you’ll find it easier to anticipate potential objections or reactions. This means you can confidently plan your response or solutions in advance. It will also help you choose your words and approach to the conversation, meaning you’ll come across with greater confidence and be able to influence more effectively.

    4. Be clear on your own values

    When you know what’s important for you, your own work ethos and what you expect from other people then you’ll feel more confident in dealing with issues that don’t align with your values. If you work with people regularly then letting them know what’s important for you and finding out the same from them will help you to ensure expectations are clear on both sides.

    5. No doesn’t mean never

    Saying no can be difficult as you don’t want to let others down but often this can end up with you taking on more than you want or can handle. However, saying “no” doesn’t have to mean “NEVER” but simply “not right now”. Next time someone asks you to do something or sets a deadline that isn’t really feasible for you, try proposing a different timeframe or offer to help with as much as you can do in that time instead. This way you’re still helping but it’s an agreement between both of you. After all they need your help so if they want it, they need to be flexible! Think win: win ; collaboration not compromise. And never be afraid to ask for time to reflect! Sometimes taking a little time out to process your thoughts can instantly give you a sense of power and confidence. You don’t always need to have the answer straight away!

    [su_testimonial photo=”http://www.freelancelifestyle.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/H13-bw-crop-720×1024.jpg” url=”www.hayleywintermantle.com.”]Hayley Wintermantle is a Career Development Coach who helps women step up in their careers, step out into work that aligns with their passion and strengths and truly step into their own. For support, guidance or to find out more about this globe-trotting foodie you can find her at http://www.hayleywintermantle.com.[/su_testimonial]

  • It’s my 30th birthday – and I’ve got a bundle for you!

    shareasimage (22)

    Eek! I turn the big 3-0 this month (and I’m secretly really excited).

    *Hits play on the Kool and the Gang Greatest Hits album, brings out the bowls of Wotsits and Twiglets, attempts to have a boogie (which is easier said than done when you’re nearly 7 months pregnant).*

    30-year-olds seem to have their shit together. And while I’ve had a ball in my twenties (especially since going freelance), I’m really excited for what the next decade has to come. Especially as this will be my last birthday before I learn how to juggle freelancing and *gulp* motherhood.So, I want to celebrate with you – by offering you TWO birthday bundles.

    I’ve created two bundles – one for those just starting out on their freelance journey and one for those that have a little more experience.

    [su_service title=”The Beginner Bundle” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” class=”a:link {http://www.freelancelifestyle.co.uk/tbuilder-layout/birthdaybundle }”]Contains the tools and resources you need to start out as self-employed, including the 30 Day To Freelance e-course, support of TWO Facebook communities and my Pitch Slap e-course. Value £279.00 – Price of bundle £149! [/su_service]

    [su_service title=”The Experienced Bundle” icon=”icon: hand-o-right” class=”a:link {http://www.freelancelifestyle.co.uk/tbuilder-layout/birthdaybundle }”]Looking to take your business up to the next level? This is the bundle for you to ace outsourcing, collaborating, building a customer base as well as a client base PLUS a 1-2-1 with me to get a customised plan to move forward with. Value £259.00 – Price of bundle £149! [/su_service]

    You see, I’d love to move into my thirties really helping other freelancers starting up their business, increasing their client base, finding new markets and breaking through income barriers. Wonderfully, a few of my freelance friends want to join me in this little online birthday party, by adding some goodies to the bundle.

    Jo GiffordOn-Off Awesome course

    Each bundle contains essential e-courses from The Freelance Lifestyle and a medley of 1-2-1 consultations, ebooks and valuable extras from my freelancing friends – including coaching calls to help you run your business in three hours a day, increase your visibility, find out how a VA can help you, plus ebooks on adding creativity into your day and growing your contacts list.

    Honestly, I can’t believe how much is going into these packages!

    Oh, and each bundle offers a BIG discount on the full collection.

    Here’s the kicker: It’s only available between 3rd-10th April

    Intrigued? Come on over to my Birthday page and find out exactly what each bundle includes.

  • Five Facebook groups for UK Freelancers

    Facebook groups for UK Freelancers

    One of the most common concerns I hear from freelancers, is about feeling lonely when working on their own. While there are plenty of ways to go out and meet other freelancers (co-working and networking in particular), the emergence of Facebook groups as online communities has been a vital and incredibly useful alternative. Over the last few years, some really great groups have popped up to help freelancers, entrepreneurs and home workers get that community feeling and support that we so desperately need. Additionally, I strongly believe that a great Facebook community can help you grow your own business and help others too – which is beneficial for the freelancing community in general. You can grow your business to a certain point on your own, but at some point you need to reach out and get help from others.

    Haven’t dipped your toe in the world of Facebook groups yet? Here are a few of my favourites.

    • Dexterous Divas and Dudes is one of my favourite online hangouts, so much so that I’ve become an admin in the group. A hub of supportive entrepreneurs, interesting discussions, weekly workshops and friendly tips, there’s rarely a week that passes that I don’t learn something new or connect with someone great in the group. To join the group, simply sign up to Jo Gifford’s excellent free newsletter. 
    • No1 Freelance Ladies’ Buddy Agency is a must for anyone that works on the freelance journalism (or even PR) side of the industry. Case studies are requested, fee advice exchanged and editor contact information sourced.
    • While The Members Group is not a free one (it’s a bonus of the Female Entrepreneur Association subscription which is worth it’s weight in gold), the discussions are brilliant and the advice is priceless. Carrie’s group is an extension of what she already offers – monthly packages of really useful information ranging from Facebook advertising to improving abundance. At the moment, there’s a waiting list to subscribe and join the group, which you can find here.
    • If you want to up your business book reading, The Coaching Book Club is a worthwhile look. Each month, a new business book is chosen and the group read it together and discuss it. Through the group, I’ve learnt about habit stacking, being brilliant everyday and eating frogs.
    • Finally, two groups from me! The Freelance Lifestylers is a free group where you can chat to other freelancers, share what you’re doing for each Pitch Slap Wednesday, discuss all things working from home and freelancing and generally meet lots of other lovely freelancers. My second group is the newly launched Social Lite Support Group, a monthly subscription group for those that want to up their social media game and grow their business, but aren’t ready to hire a social media consultant or coach. You can find out more information about the Social Lite Support Group here.

    Which Facebook groups do you rely on as a freelancer? Let me know your favourites in the comments below, or over on Twitter.

  • A little Freelance Lifestyle announcement

    I’m not usually one for ‘sorry I’ve not been blogging’ posts. But I’ve been quiet on the blog for a really nice reason this time (rather than my usual ‘life got busy and I let it slide’ one.)

    Peter and I are excitedly expecting a baby, in July. As Lego is an ongoing theme in our relationship (my mother-in-law made us a Lego cake for our wedding, and I made Pete a Lego board game for our 1st anniversary), we told our families by giving them these customised Lego figures from Minifigs.me.

    legofigures

    While I haven’t been hit too badly on the morning sickness side of things (thankfully ‘only’ constant nausea for me), I have been completely exhausted. Someone told me that the first trimester of pregnancy is like a heavy hangover and PMT all at once, and that’s very accurate. Still, in the grand scheme of things, it’s the best reason to be feeling crappy.

    So blogging has taken a backseat. Actually, most things have taken a backseat. I’ve been feeling horrible guilt about not being productive, and feeling very lazy (even though I have been pretty busy, growing a baby and that). Thankfully Pete has been brilliant at looking after me and picking up the slack around the house. Plus all that time not working has lit a rocket under me when it comes to this blog and some ideas I have for 2015.

    Freelancing and parenting

    In truth, the idea of having a baby when I’m freelance is a little intimidating. I don’t have the luxury of maternity pay (although as a Limited Company, there is a way to get paid maternity pay) and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to take more than a few months off work. On top of that is the ‘what if I lose all my clients while I’m off’ fear. But as I learn more about how to navigate all of this, I’m hoping to share any helpful information on this blog to help others too. Plus, freelancing (in theory) should make it easier for me to get back into work, as I can take on enough to balance income and looking after my little one.

    I’m thinking about doing a small monthly post about freelance pregnancy/maternity leave and beyond. What do you think – is that something you’d like to read about?

    Have you gone through pregnancy and having a newborn as a freelancer? How did you cope? Share your tips with us in the comments below!