Freelance General

  • Five Myths Stopping You From Going freelance

    This year, I’ve passed my ninth year in freelancing. Over that time, I’ve heard a lot of myths about going freelance.

    Some are comical – “don’t you just watch Jeremy Kyle all day?” (I’d rather poke my eyes out than watch that coffee-breathed anger management-candidate, ta).

    Some are understandable – “Isn’t it hard to find new clients?” (yes, it can be, but I love a challenge – and the thought of having to go back into an office and see my productivity half is all the motivation I need”)

    Some are just shocking “Do freelancers work for free?”. No. The mortgage company doesn’t suddenly give you a pass on payments because you work for yourself.  

    So, I thought it was time to bust some myths.

    Freelancing doesn’t give job security

    Given the amount of redundancies we’ve seen over the last decade, you’d think the old concept of job security would have seen a shake up. Job security in reality is about 30 days for most people – the length of your notice period.

    The beauty of freelancing is that you can negotiate your own contract with clients, so you can include a notice period with them (for ongoing contracts, for fixed contracts you can take deposits and regular payments). If you have multiple clients, you’re actually spreading the risk, instead of having all your eggs in one basket.

    It takes work to keep your client pipeline topped up (I have a guide for how to do that here), but freelance work can be more flexible, more fun and more lucrative.

    Freelancers don’t earn much

    More than once, I’ve come across people who believe freelancing is working for free. NOPE. Well, unless you count the times when people are hoodwinked into working for free for ‘exposure’.

    In fact, I know quite a few freelancers who now earn more (after tax) than they did in their full time jobs. If you work hard, and you don’t become restricted by the money = time approach, the sky is the limit.

    That said, it’s also important to note that not everyone who is a freelancer is motivated by money. In fact, money is often 3rd or 4th on the list, behind passion, flexibility and having control.

    Working from home is lonely

    Sometimes it is. Sometimes you have a tricky day with a client, and all you want to do is let off steam with a colleague. Sometimes you’ll see photos on Instagram of people out for Friday drinks. Sometimes you’ll engage the postman in a conversation that’s uncomfortably long.

    But being freelance doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Firstly, come join the Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group, as quite a few meet-ups are organised (along with the usual daily chit chat). I also spotted someone organising Friday night drinks in London, so you can still have a social life when you’re self-employed! Co-working is another option, where you work alongside others, but on your own business. You can even try Jelly, monthly co-working meetups, if you don’t fancy the commitment of booking a desk. Try organising weekly Skype calls with another freelancer too – I check in with Daire Paddy every Tuesday morning.

    I’ll have to deal with lots of finances and accounts!

    You will have to deal with your finances and accounts. But it’s not as scary as you think! Each January, you’ll need to complete your Self-Assessment form. A lot of the accounts tools online, like Freeagent, will automatically fill a lot of this in for you.

    You’ll need to keep a check of your expenses. most of mine are online, so I keep my receipt emails in a sub-folder and I use Wave which imports my bank transfers so I can match them to my business transactions. Put away 25% of your earnings for your tax and NI, and you should end up with a little left over after you’ve paid your bill. Finally, don’t be scared to ask for help. You may want to hire a bookkeeper or accountant in your first year, and HMRC are actually really happy to help if you call them (as long as it’s not late January).

    It’s really complicated to start up

    The most common thing I hear from new freelancers is “I don’t know where to start!”. That’s why I’ve put together The Freelance Lifestash. The Freelance Lifestash is packed full of tools, resources, templates and tips to get you started and building your freelance business – including The 30 Day Freelance Lifestyle course, which takes you through the first 30 days of starting your freelance business. The Freelance Lifestash is only £20 a month, with new and exclusive resources added each month – interviews with experts, new templates, tool walkthroughs to make your freelance life easier.

  • What to do when you fall ill as a freelancer

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    While pregnancy is obviously a joyous blessing, it also means you can spend quite a bit of time feeling, well….shit. For the past week I’ve been struggling a lot with energy levels, the joys of SPD and the return of a sprinkling of nausea. While these are all things I can cope with, it has got me thinking a lot more about what to do as a freelancer when you are sick or you can’t work. The trouble is, like a lot of freelancers, I’m quite stubborn when it comes to taking time off. Especially when it’s a forced time off due to illness and needing to recover. Why? Because when I’m not working, I’m not earning. As illnesses often creep up unannounced, you can’t necessarily plan for this time out. It’s incredibly frustrating. It’s something I really struggle with because mentally I’m ready to work, but physically sometimes I’m struggling to keep my eyes open, focus or concentrate. The smart bit of my brain knows I need to take time out to recover or I’ll only feel worse for longer. But the stubborn part of my brain often overrules.

    Pregnancy has just given me a tiny insight into those who are going through serious illnesses, work with disabilities and anyone who has a child to juggle with everything else (because when your child wakes up ill, you can’t just carry on).

    Now in all honesty I’ve been very fortunate. I haven’t suffered illnesses very much at all since being freelance. There’s a good chance that because I’m not spending so much time in offices where I can catch every cough and cold going. Also my stress levels are lower which helps. I know I’m lucky. But being ill when you’re freelance means I also don’t have the luxury of calling in sick and getting paid for it.

    So, being a practical type, I’ve decided to stop whining (well momentarily) and look at what my options are.

    Option one – power through. Well, that’s working out well so far…

    Option two – cut down the hours I’m working. I’ve managed that a bit, averaging a four hour work day at the moment.

    Option three – outsource. Again I have an amazing VA, and I have been out sorting bits and pieces that has definitely take someone of the stress off.

    Option four – be straight with my clients. This has a sort of part A and part B to it. Part A is being up front when I need a little deadline extension. If I’m really ill, Part B is being honest about taking a few days off. I don’t relish the thought of either because…well, it feels like admitting I’ve failed.

    Being freelance is a bit weird because you’re almost expected to always be available and never take sick days. That’s partly because we work on our own. We don’t usually have cover.

    So, what do you do when you’re ill as a freelancer?

  • Five things you shouldn’t give a shit about as a freelancer

    freelancer quoteFreelancing can be a minefield of worries, from ‘Will I land this pitch?’ to ‘Will they pay me on time this month, or will I have to send another civil-but-pissy email?’. There are, however, some things you definitely shouldn’t worry about.

    You shouldn’t give a shit about..

    1. ….the negative opinions of anyone who hasn’t run a business before (or a successful one at least). When you first go freelance, you’re going to get a lot of ‘ooh, that won’t give you much security, are you sure that’s a good idea?’ and ‘Don’t you want a real job?’. Ignore them, unless they have your best interests at heart. Most of these comments are rooted in their belief of the old stereotypes of freelancing – that there’s no security, no money and it’s not a viable option to pay the bills. Us freelancers know better, right?
    2. ….being like everyone else. Seriously, quit it. You’re never going to be just like you’re business idols, and to be honest that would be a bit creepy if you did become their clone. Instead, look at how they made great decisions, and work out whether you’re using the same approach to your business. BUT, make sure it works for you. I love the glossy, pro videos and motivational statements Marie Forleo makes, but it’s really not me. AT ALL. I don’t really do polished. Work out what you’re about, and who you’re selling to, and focus on that rather than chasing after someone else.
    3. …..not being cool enough. We’re out of school now. Being cool is, frankly, pointles and chasing the concept of it is a massive waste of your time. And some of my favourite freelance women currently making waves in the freelance work are card-carrying dorks. Dorks with really nice shoes, but dorks all the same. Being passionate about what you do as a freelancer is way more important than being cool.[su_quote cite=”@freelance_life” url=”http://www.freelancelifestyle.co.uk/2015/02/five-things-yo…s-a-freelancer.html”]Being passionate about what you do as a freelancer is way more important than being cool.[/su_quote]
    4. …..not looking the part. I am not a skinny girl. In fact, during my freelance career I’ve gone from a size 12 to a 16. Despite spending several years writing for a fashion blog about killer heels and beautiful bags, most of my shoes are flats and most of my handbags are designed to be huge and practical so I can carry all my gadgets around with me and destroy my back always be connected.  I ate kale once by accident, and drink occasional green smoothies, but I’ve also been known to devour a Domino’s pizza. Don’t wait until you fit the mould of what a successful freelancer, because you’ll wait forever. I’ll say it again Don’t wait until you fit the mould of what a successful freelancer is supposed to be, because you’ll wait forever. Passion and hard work are the most important things..
    5. ….what other people’s goals are. Do your competitors (and I use this term loosely as I’m not a fan of pitching freelancers against each other) want to work from a beach, earn a million quid this year or feature in Forbes? Good. For them. But don’t feel like your goals have to match theirs. If success for you is happily paying the bills while having time with your family and enjoying monthly spa days, then make those your goals. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself all the time (are you seeing a theme here?)

    Next week, we’ll talk about what you really should give a shit about.

  • 10 Things That Have Helped Me Boost My Business in 2014

    10 Things That Have Helped Me Boost My Business in 2014

    It’s reflection time people. That time of year when you look back on the year, try and remember what the hell you’ve done and work out what you want to do differently in 2015.

    One of my favourite things about being freelance is the number of options available, which means no one year is the same. For me, this year was challenging in good and bad ways. It definitely felt like a trickier year, although I suspect this is down to growing pains leading up to becoming a a Limited Company in September. I’ve realised that when I approach the edge of my comfort zone, I have a tendency to self-sabotage which stops growth. This year has definitely been about moving beyond that.

    The first half of the year was focused on building up my coaching and training skills, something I’ve really enjoyed. It was also the time of year in which I launched my online ecourse. I signed up for some new mentoring groups and some more 1-2-1 coaching, something I plan on doing a lot more of in 2015.

    The second half was full of good news, but challenges too – from October the nausea and tiredness of pregnancy kicked in and I pretty much had to write any new plans off until the new year. Taking a break, while frustrating, isn’t necessarily a bad thing though – it’s the perfect time to reflect and work out what I was really excited about returning to. The last half of the year was also the time when I became a finalist in the 15 for 2015 freelancers, a competition run by IPSE.

    I set myself an income goal this year, and fell slightly short – mainly because I lost the last three months of the year to hiding under the duvet. I still saw an increase on last year though, and I feel like I’m in a much better position going forward. Next year, my focus is on growing the business and making it as flexible as possible before the baby comes along. I love thinking about a fresh new year.

    There are a few people and tools that have really helped me boost my business in 2014.

    Jo Gifford and the Dexterous Divas and Dudes

    I’ve known Jo through Twitter for years now, but this was the year I joined her Dexterous Divas and Dudes group (it’s free!). Facebook mastermind groups really took off in 2014, but I ended up leaving quite a few as there was either too little engagement or too much spamming from members. Dexterous Divas and Dudes is a group of online entrepreneurs asking for advice and helping others. On top of that, there are weekly promotion opportunities, mindfullness topics and workshops to learn more. I’ve made some great contacts through this group, and the workshops in particular have been very valuable.

    Denise Duffield Thomas

    Lucky Bitch, Denise Duffield Thomas’s program and ebooks, have made the biggest change to my money mindset this year. The biggest mindset shift was the guilt over wanting to earn more -the idea that it was ‘greedy’. I’d highly recommend her audiobook on this topic.

    Sile Walsh

    2014 was the year I realised that ecourses are brilliant up until a point, and then your money is better spent on 1-2-1 consulting. A 1-2-1 session with Sile Walsh left me with a notebook filled with notes and a head filled with ideas. She’s very intuitive and spotted the obvious blocks in my business straight away. Easily worth the money I invested.

    The Leonie Dawson planner

    This year, I invested in the Leonie Dawson planner, and I’m really enjoying filling it in and reflecting on the past year as well as making plans for 2015.

    The Members club

    Carrie Green is probably the closest we’ve got in the UK to Marie Forleo, and her Members Club is one of the best investments I’ve made this year. For $25 a month, I get a new bundle each month, on topics ranging from doing your own publicity to running successful Facebook adverts. Her Facebook group is also a really friendly and helpful resource. The price goes up in January, so you might want to sign up now before it does.

    The High Tea Cast team

    I’ve been writing for The High Tea Cast for a year or two now, and the Facebook group of other writers has been brilliant for both offloading during stressful times and sharing ridiculous/funny things. Having that support group has been vital this year.

    Evernote

    Onto the tools! I’ve finally embraced Evernote this year, after the realisation hit that you have to approach it with an all or nothing mindset. These days, I use it to scan in any correspondence, save favourited Tweets, create weekly plans, save PDF/ebooks and write blog posts. It’s a vital tool for my business and I couldn’t work without it.

    Plus, it gives me the illusion of organisation. Hurrah!

    Buffer

    Buffer has upped their game this year with the introduction of their suggested content, and in turn its really helped me keep on top of my social media. I’ve seen a real jump in numbers on my social media accounts, and I really think a buffer has contributed to that.

    Unroll.me

    Another tool I played around with last year but only fully embraced in the last few months. I HATE dealing with my email, but have a nasty habit of constantly subscribing to things. Unroll.me keeps me sane by rolling up all the non urgent emails into one summarised email.

    The Email Game

    Finally, Jo Gifford introduced me to The Email Game, an online tool to tear through your emails when you’ve let them slide for a few days. If emails are slowing you down, a couple of sessions with this online tool a day will help you keep on top of things.

    So, over to you. What groups/people/tools have helped you boost your business in 2014?

  • 5 ways to use tech to stay sane

    Jo-GiffordHappy Monday everyone. We’re kicking off this week with a guest post about how tech can help you stick to those January resolutions, from Jo Gifford, digital media genius and lovely tweeter.

    Have your New Year’s resolutions already faded into the ether? Is your willpower for that diet, marathon training plan, novel writing goal or general world domination starting to dwindle?

    Go easy on yourself. Let tech do the legwork for you to help your productivity, information overload, focus and, in general, sanity. Reduce the noise, step away from the screen, and re-discover your goals with some free time to actually do them.

    Ready?

    1. Automate daily habits and tasks

    Taking the monotony out of daily repetitive tasks frees up both your time and inclination to do something else.

    • For daily digests of RSS feeds, newsletters or hot topics to keep abreast of, set up filters using IFTTT to aggregate them all somewhere that works for you, be it Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox or wherever else tickles your fancy. You can browse and comment, share or act on anything in your own time in a more organised way.

    • For habits and daily activities, Routines is a lovely little app with friendly, easy to set reminders to tick off and feel a sense of direction and accomplishment. Set the reminders to vary how strict the timeframe of the action is and how aggressively you wish to be reminded, and keep on track with getting things done.

    2. Reduce inbox overwhelm

    Inbox overwhelm is the antithesis of sanity and productivity. By setting up some smart tech systems and habits you can step away from the inbox and break the reliance on instant response requirements and general “noise”.

    • Scoop is an excellent add on for Gmail that literally scoops up promotional emails and smartly presents them to you in one daily digest, not unlike an inbox VA.

    • Sanebox is another excellent option which allows emails to be diverted from your inbox and re-presented to you when you need to see them again, dictated by you with a simple click to file the email. Lovely.

    • Use IFTTT to collate reading material or emails you need to respond to or read later by storing them in relevant files which dump them into corresponding Evernote notebooks or a Google Docs location.

    • Canned responses by Gmail in combination with Sanebox and IFTTT filters allows set responses to be sent out to emails with certain criteria, filed, ordered and re-presented to you when you need.

    • Awayfind lets you step away from the inbox safe in the knowledge that if the urgent information you need to react to comes in, you can set filters for a text message instant alert.

    How does that inbox seem now you are in charge?

    3. Get smart with social

    Setting up smart social media sharing workflows is another sanity saving trick.

    • Buffer is an excellent resource for sharing content in one dedicated social media portion of time, with the updates flowing throughout the day to avoid an obvious dump of information on your feed.

    • Collating tweets or updates from users relevant to your niche that you need to follow can be easily set up in IFTTT straight to a spreadsheet. Simply read, paste and click to schedule relevant content for your audience throughout the day while you are free to pursue those lifelong dreams…or, indeed, get on with some work.

    • Set up workflows to collate and file tweets you favourite and instagram pics you like to store information and resources for an appropriate time so that social interaction time doesn’t lead you on a bottomless pit of web browsing.

    See? Social doesn’t have to be a time vacuum.

    4. Go paperless

    Living without a constant pile of paperwork and general “Stuff” is a breath of fresh air. Use Evernote to photograph sketches, letters, business cards, Post It Notes, kids artwork, invitations, and any other ephemera which clutters up your desk.

    Free yourself from mountains of letters and find your way around information so much easier.

     

    5. Talk to yourself

    What if you could be productive even in the outside world, away from the screen? Taking time out to enjoy fresh air or a change of scenery doesn’t mean ideas can’t be captured on the go; dictate memos, blog posts and emails into Evernote to transcribe later, or use Dragon Dictation to record your thoughts and ideas to be dealt with when you plug back in – whenever you choose that to be.

    Wishing you a productive, sane and tech powered 2014.

    Jo Gifford

    Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, illustrator & creativity addict; she teaches creative ideas for online content creators, business owners & self employed mums via her Access All Areas programme and one to one sessions.

    Find her blogging over on Dexterous Diva and grab yourself a place on her free webinar The Smart Bloggers Guide to social scheduling

     

  • How to be a part-time freelancer – free time freelancing

    Did you know a lot of freelancers started out doing bits and pieces in their free time, around their full-time jobs, families and other responsibilities? Taking the plunge into full time freelancing can be, well…..terrifying! But free time freelancing is totally doable, and a great way to test the waters.

    Read on for my guide on how to get started as a part-time freelancer…

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    Choosing what to do:

    You can do anything! Here are a few of the most popular options:

    • Virtual assistant – admin generally.
    • Social Media
    • Pet sitting
    • Baby sitting
    • Baking
    • Cleaning
    • Ironing
    • Graphic design
    • Blog design
    • Make Up
    • Hairdressing
    • Teaching/Tutorials
    • Wedding planning
    • DIY jobs
    • Decluttering
    • Gardening
    • Renting – You can rent out anything, from items you own to your home for filming!

    Where to find freelance work:

    When you want to find freelance work, but don’t have the time or money to promote yourself or network, there are plenty of tools you can use.

    • Fiverr – This task marketplace lets you offer a small service for $5. This is a great way to make a small amount of money while building up your portfolio.
    • People Per Hour – Another bidding marketplace, People Per Hour can be useful for picking up the odd job you can do during the evening or at the weekends. I occasionally pick up writing work through PPH, so it’s worth signing up for.
    • Task Squad – I wrote recently about Task Squad. If you’re 18-25, you can do ad hoc jobs through Task Squad, ranging from public stunts to event supervision.
    • Get your friends involved. Do you offer a service like baking, sewing, graphic design or child/pet care? Ask your friends to keep their ears open for any potential opportunities.
    • Get social. Creating a Facebook page for your work is a great way to promote your product or service, with no costs and little time commitment.

    Tax and finances

    If you’re hoping to freelance on the side of a full time job, you’ll need to get legal. When it comes to tax and NI, HMRC has a pretty detailed page about this. Essentially, your tax situation at work shouldn’t change, but you’ll need to start putting money aside from all your freelance earnings, to pay your tax bill and NI. I usually try to put 30% of my income away for tax/NI/business stuff (then whatever I have left after paying my bills goes on fun stuff.)

    Work/Life Balance

    One of the important things when considering free time freelancing, is working out how much time you want to dedicate to it. While it might be tempting to fill your free time with extra work to earn extra money, you’re not doing yourself any favours. Try to keep at least a couple of evenings or a day at the weekend free from work, so you have a chance to recharge. You might also want to check your contract, as some employers prefer that you don’t do the same work for other clients, especially if they’re possible competitors.

    Are you tempted to do some free time freelancing? 

  • Creating a Working From Home wardrobe

    In an ideal world, those working from home would get up at the same time as everyone else, and don the same smart workwear and flawless hair and make up as the rest of the working world. But really, this seems like a terrible waste of an outfit when the only people that will see you during a working from home day are the postman and your family.

    That said, I’m not suggesting you give in and resort to wearing your pyjamas all day. This will only lead the postman to believe you’re off work unwell, and your family to make sarky remarks about ‘lounging around all day’.

    So, for the female home workers among you, I’ve put together a selection of the best clothing to wear at home, which caters to both your comfort and your style needs. Obviously this is only my opinion – if you want to go for power suits or Lady Gaga-style outfits, I applaud you!

    Trousers

    Let’s start from the bottom shall we? Remember that episode of Friends, where Phoebe claims to have bought a pair of Apartment Pants?  That’s essentially what we’re looking for here – trousers that could pass for a pair of casual day trousers, but have the comfort level of a pair of PJ pants. These tend to be under the loungewear area on most sites. ASOS does a great range, including these Oysho Jersey Track Lounge Pants:Image 1 of Oysho Jersey Track Lounge Pant

    Primark also does a great range of loungewear – I’ve got several of their black stretchy trousers, which wouldn’t look out of place at a yoga class.

    Tops

    Go for fitted but comfortable. I tend to go for vest tops or t-shirts with a super-soft cardigan, for some relaxed glamour. I love slouchy, off-the-shoulder jumpers too, or cute little knit jumpers. Here are a few of my current favourites:

    Draped jacket with faux leather detail from Zara.

    Another Zara find (they really do have lounge chic down to a T), a Striped Sweater with lace detail.

    Oriental Flock Kimono from Miss Selfridge

    Dresses

    Dresses and leggings/tights are a great combo for the Working From Home uniform. Comfortable to work in, but stylish enough for you to quickly pop out if you need to. Dorothy Perkins are always worth a browse for great casual dresses, like the below.

     

    Socks

    Stick with me here people. One of the wonderful things about working from home, is that you get to wear delightful, luxurious knee-high socks, and no one bats an eyelid. I love the whole range from Urban Knit, but these cream ones look extra cosy.

    Wrap

    When it’s really chilly, save on the heating and wrap up in this Cashmilon™ Tassel Trim Knitted Wrap from M&S.

    What do you wear when you’re working from home?

  • 10 things no one tells you about freelancing

    There are certain things about freelancing, that you can only learn from experience. Most people won’t know for sure whether they’ll love freelancing, how much time it will take or quite how much earning potential there is until they’ve given it a try.

    But here are a few things I’ve learnt, that might be helpful if you’re new to, or considering, freelancing. These are just my experiences, so I’d love to know what you’ve learnt in the comments!

    • Sometimes, when you’re working at 8pm on a Sunday evening or you have to leave the pub early to meet a deadline, you have a moment where you want to give up and do a 9-5 job. For me, that moment passes quickly. For others, it may be constant (and a sign that perhaps freelancing isn’t for them). But at some point, we all wonder if working for someone else would be easier.
    • It’s incredibly hard to switch off from work when you work for yourself. This isn’t always a bad thing, but does lead to workaholic tendencies.
    • When I was a kid, I found it excruciatingly embarrassingly when my parents would carry a spare catalogue or business card for their business Chocolates for Chocoholics, and hand them out. Now, I do it.
    • You might become office-resistent. I’ve gone back to working in an office a couple of times since going freelance, and always feel like a trapped animal. I have no patience for office politics, processes I haven’t implemented and uncomfortable office chairs. Freelancing and working from home has spoiled me for working in an office, but works perfectly for my introverted personality traits.
    • If you’re an extrovert however, you might end up missing the office. Missing tea break chats, office banter and after work pub visits. Many of the big cities have creative spaces for freelancers to work together, so it’s worth looking into if you’re feeling like that.
    • Once you go freelance, you’ll never go back. Well, unless you hate freelancing. It’s still tricky to go back to taking orders from others when you’ve been your own boss though.
    • A lot of freelancers have a number of skills and roles. This makes it difficult to explain what you do to others without them drifting off. I’ve yet to come up with a full title for what I do. This, I fear, is why so many people refer to themselves as ninjas, experts and gurus.
    • I’ve often come across the assumption that freelancing is a relaxed, boho lifestyle that requires little work. This is, as you all know, bullshit. Freelancing is hard work. Far harder than many 9-5 jobs. This is why many people say they run their own business rather than freelance – less stigma.
    • Feeling ill? Fancy pulling a sickie? Or want to take a holiday? Great! Just know that the work you left will still be there when you get back – with a whole bundle more. You are wholly responsible as a freelancer for your business.
    • Freelancing has made me unable to relax. If I take a week off, it’s inevitable that I’ll end up tinkering with HTML, planning future posts or planning a future product. Time spent lazing around the house rather than working on something seems like a waste of time. In fact, I went on a relaxing spa break with my mum and sister this year, and ended up leaving feeling more stressed from how inefficient I had been.
    So, that’s my experiences and lessons from freelancing. What are yours? What have you learnt about freelancing that you didn’t know before?