Freelance General

  • How to improve meeting effectiveness

    Work in an office? Chances are, you probably spend a decent amount of your week in and out of meetings.

    In previous jobs, I used to watch colleagues jump from meeting to meeting with various different departments. Often, the meetings were only useful for one member of the team, or involved lots of dithering about.

    I went to a few of these meetings (perk of the job is that I didn’t need to attend too many), and found them…well, generally pointless. More often than not, they had little structure, failed to resolve an issue and went on for much longer than they needed to.

    So, what are the alternatives?

    • Emails. Got something to tell everyone? Sometimes, an email is better than asking everyone to take an hour out of their day. If no one is reading your emails, it might suggest you need to change the way you’re writing them.
    • Interactive software. There are plenty of interactive software packages and tools around that can help businesses communicate with each other without being away from their desks. Yammer is a sort of social media network for businesses, so people can post ideas for others to see, and comment or contribute. You could also use EverNote, Springpad or Campfire. Get creative!
    • Have a meeting – but give it a time limit: Do you really have to have an hour’s meeting on that topic? Too often, the purpose of a meeting isn’t outlined clearly before, which means half the meeting is spent going over old ground. Set a short time limit, say half an hour, ask your attendees to read the material before they come to the meeting and come with ideas, and give everyone five minutes to discuss their point of views. Anything that doesn’t fit into that time can be discussed over online collaborative software (see above) or email. There’s a great post on Lifehacker about reducing meeting times to just 10 minutes – thanks to some clever forward planning. Time is money after all, and the more time you spend in meetings means less time making money!
    • Keep irrelevant chat until after the meeting. There’s nothing more soul destroying than listening to someone drone on about something that isn’t relevant to the meeting content. If you’re running the meeting, firmly (but politely) stop them and explain that you can discuss that at a later time. Chances are, the rest of the attendees will silently applause you.
    • Outline your expectations of good manners. Tardiness and the constant use of phones and iPads in meetings can wind up other attendees. Regular tardiness to meetings is disrespectful to everyone else who has made the effort to arrive on time, and tapping away through your emails shows you’re not engaged.
    • Finish the meeting with a summary of what’s been said, and a list of suggested actions. Follow up those actions a few days in an email, perhaps with meeting minutes to refresh memories.

    In general, I rarely have to have meetings these days as a freelancer. They usually happen at the start of a working relationship, and the rest of the time I mainly use Skype or email to communicate each way. Obviously that’s not for everyone, and varies from business to business. A monthly catch up meeting might suit your business down to the ground. See what works for you.

    How do you feel about meetings? Do you have any handy tactics for making them more effective? I’d love to hear them in the comments! 

  • Poll: Where do you find most of your clients?

    One of the things I get asked most often about freelancing is how to find new clients. The truth is, it’s a real mix of things. Originally most of my clients came from Twitter and word of mouth. Now, I tend to get more from networking events like Ladies Who Latte and through my blog/website thanks to a bit of SEO. I don’t really believe you can rely on one type of client attraction method, unless your market or industry is really niche. The more you put yourself out there, the more client enquiries you should get!

    I’d love to know how you’ve all built up your client base. How do you find most of your clients? Are you all about the offline networking, or do most of your clients find you thanks to Google and Twitter? Leave your vote below, then let me know what your favourite way is to find new clients.

    [poll id=”8″]

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge: Fit in 30 minutes of exercise daily

    Confession time people: I’m not a natural fitness fan. I’m more commonly found on a sofa than doing yoga. But with falling energy levels, poor health and an upcoming wedding, I’ve had to re-assess my previously lazy routine. Plus, all the evidence suggests that regular exercise will improve concentration levels, productivity, reduce stress and . So getting more exercise really is good business sense.

    Therefore, this week’s weekly freelance challenge is a somewhat selfish one. I’d like to challenge you (and me!) to do 30 minutes of exercise each day of the working week. I’m already working with a personal trainer twice a week as I’ve got a fair bit of weight to shift in order to be healthy again, but for most people half an hour a day is quite achievable.

    30 minutes of exercise could be as easy as:

    • A brisk walk at lunchtime, even easier if you have a dog to walk. If you usually meet a friend for coffee, try arranging a catch up walk instead
    • Try the Couch to 5k running plan
    • An early morning swim
    • A quick yoga session (there are plenty of free YouTube tutorials about, or pick up a bargain Yoga DVD on Amazon)
    • A workout class – book ahead if you can so you’re committed to going.
    • A session on the Wii or Kinect. Several of the Just Dance workout videos have timed workouts to make it easier, and I think some of the sports ones do too.
    • Put your favourite music on and dance round the house.
    • Split the half an hour into sections, doing five minutes of exercise each hour.

    How do you fit exercise into your daily routine? Get it over and done with first thing? Or take a lunch break away from your desk to work those muscles?

  • The Three Minute Podcast: Is freelancing for you?

    Here we go with a second podcast. It’s only three minutes long – have a listen while you’re making yourself a tea!

    This week, I’m talking about whether freelancing is for you, and looking at the following questions:

    1) Can you afford it?

    2) Will you be lonely?

    3) Are you prepared to promote yourself?

    4) Have you got a support network?

    5) Do you have the time?

    As much as I love freelancing, I know it’s not for everyone. Go with your gut feeling – and if you find it’s not for you, you can always go back to being employed!

    Based on the podcast, do you think freelancing is for you?

  • Poll: How long have you been freelancing?

    Last week’s poll was all about the worst bits of freelancing. Overwhelming the biggest bugbear of freelancers is chasing clients and invoices. Surprisingly 27% found working on their own the hardest part (although not all freelancers work from home on their own), and 18% struggled with a less secure income. Another 18% worried about dealing with financial issues – keep an eye on the blog as I’ve got a few guest posts coming up about the latter.

    This week, it’s all about how long you’ve been freelancing. On and off, I’ve been freelancing for just over three years. While it’s not for everyone, it suits me down to the ground. Thanks in part to the world of blogging and social media, and in part thanks to the appalling economy, freelancing is becoming more and more popular – so I suspect most people will be in the same boat as me – three years or less. But there’s a lot to learn from those who have had a long term career from freelancing.

    So, have a vote in the poll below! And if you’re an experienced freelancer, what advice would you give to newer freelancers?

    [poll id=”6″]

  • The Weekly Freelance Challenge

    Welcome back from the weekend (or rather, welcome to the extended weekend – hurrah for Jubilee bank holidays!)

    This week, I wanted to do something a little different. I’d like to set a small challenge each week for those freelancing or working from home, or thinking about doing either of those. I’ll take part in the challenges too, and report back on how I get on.

    This week’s freelancing challenge

    As it’s a short week, I’m going to keep it simple for the first one. We’re six months into the year, so I challenge you to come up with a list of five goals you want to achieve by the end of 2012. They can be a mixture of personal and professional, and as big or small or serious or silly as you like. The important thing is that they’re achievable.

    For me, my five goals for the rest of 2012 are:

    • To increase my income from 2011 by 15%. I’ve got a few different projects which I’m hoping will help me meet this goal, but a business plan is needed!
    • Continue to post regularly on The Freelance Lifestyle.
    • Podcast more. I got the bug last week when doing my first podcast, and I’d love to continue doing them.
    • Adopt a more healthy freelance lifestyle – I’m looking into a new exercise routine and getting back on the meal planning wagon. Now I’m freelancing full-time, it should in theory be easier to fit in some exercise. Challenge coming up for that.
    • Finish planning the majority of my wedding in April next year. It’s been on the back burner a bit because of work but I’m hoping to get it mainly sorted by the end of the year.

    So now it’s over to you! Leave a comment with your top five goals, or write a blog post and let me know! I love to see what other freelancers are hoping to do this year.

    p.s Like a challenge? Want 30 days of them? Check out my 30 day Freelancing Challenge ebook.

  • Five essential freelance and blogging reads this week

    This week’s been an interesting one for news. Facebook have finally got their butts in gear with scheduled posts for pages (although as Hootsuite has offered this for a while along with multiple accounts, I’m not entirely sure they haven’t left it too late). They’ve also added multiple levels of admin permissions, which could be handy if you want to give others the ability to see your stats or admin notifications but don’t want others to post.

    Editorial Calendar planning

    There’s a great post over on Savvy Sexy Social all about editorial calendar planning to make sure you’re posting regularly. Check out Amy’s long list of blog post suggestion too, which is great if you need a little inspiration.

    Google+ goes local

    Great news if you’re a local business. Google has launched Google+ Local, for users to find local businesses easily. Google+ Local takes it’s info from a range of other Google products like Maps, Places and Plus, so it’s even more reason to get your business on those pages and maximise your traffic.

    What should your day rate be?

    Judy alerted me to this great post on freelance day rates and what the right price generally is. It’s not easy to find decent guides for how much you should charge, and this gives a fairly realistic idea.

    Save 2% when you get paid: Don’t end up in the workhouse when you retire

    If you’re freelance, it’s easy to forget about pensions. Especially as you don’t have a boss paying into it. But Rosie from One Man Band Bookkeeping makes the valid point that you should put 2% of your income away to make sure you’re ok for the future.

    What have you been reading this week?

  • My favourite freelancing reads

    There are certain books that always sit on my desk. Some are very work-based, while others are for inspiration (or just for picking what I’m going to do for lunch). Sometimes I just prefer to read an actual book with pages rather than scroll, scroll, scroll (although I do have a rising collection of ebooks – but that’s another blog post)

    Starting from the bottom:

    Blogging for Dummies

    C’mon, we all have a ‘…for Dummies’ book tucked away somewhere don’t we? This is great for checking a few things or brushing up on blogging skills. Also, it makes a great laptop stand…

    BUST DIY Guide to life

    A recent addition, but one I’ve had my eye on for ages. It’s got DIY guides for pretty much everything – from putting up shelves to sorting your finances. As I write for a number of different clients, it’s handy having a general guide to hand if I need some inspiration.

    Domestic Sluttery

    Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of the blog Domestic Sluttery. It’s ‘The home and lifestyle blog for women who have better things to do’, and the book follows the same theme. I tend to dip into this for recipes and general advice (there are some great cheat sheets in the back for size conversions and washing instructions, which is handy for when I write about fashion).

    My Grammar and I (or should that be ‘Me’?) 

    This is my go-to grammar book, and I’ve got a dozen post it notes poking out the top for bits that I regularly come back to. Very readable too, considering the topic.

    Eats, Shoots & Leaves

    I occasionally flick through Eats, Shoots & Leaves for grammar advice too, as it seems to be the industry standard for anyone that writes for a living.

    The Wonderful Weekend Book

    LOVE this book. I tend to dive into it for inspiration when I have a rare day off and want to do something (I have an inability to laze around since going freelance, feels like a waste of time). It’s all about reclaiming your weekends and doing something interesting, rather than spending hours in the supermarket or watching SATC reruns.

    The Thrift Book

    Freelancing is a feast or famine business. So for times when money is a bit tight, I turn to India Knight’s The Thrift Book. India outlines everything from how to make your own cheese to what make up you must splurge on. I’ve folded the corners of half the pages. This is why I’m not allowed to rent from the library anymore.

    Thesaurus

    Well, there’s only so many times you can call a bag gorgeous, cute or pretty before you lose the will to live.

    What books do you always keep on your desk?