Freelance Business

  • Three ways a mentor can boost your business


    Today, we’re talking mentors, and how they can boost your biz. But first, a bit of background…

    Freelancing tends to work in a cycle of sorts, a bit like a relationship. After the initial excitement of going freelance, there’s a period of thinking ‘Crap, have I done the right thing?’. Hopefully, you’ll realise you have, and jump into it, ready to commit.

    Once you’re sure it’s right for you, you’re walking on air. It’s exciting! Your clients love what you do! You’re learning new things every day! You’re earning moola!

    But like anything in life, you then enter into the part of your freelance career where you coast a little. Things are comfortable. But you need to spice things up a bit. Push yourself to earn more than just ‘comfortable’. I was at that stage, a month or so ago.

    I’ve been coasting for a year or so, if I’m honest. That’s not to say I haven’t been enjoying it. But I’ve struggled with how to step it up. If I was in a job, I’d be aiming for a promotion at this point, but in freelancing that’s trickier – how do you get to that next level? A level where you’ll potential start a business hiring others? Turning to your peers is great, but they can only offer you so much advice.

    So what’s a freelancer to do? It’s time to get a mentor.

    I realised the importance of finding a mentor after chatting to friends like Samantha, and the Dexterous Diva Facebook community. So many people reported great things about chin wagging with one and how it helped them step up their business, that I made it my mission to find one. Thankfully, after a few tweets and Facebook shout outs, a friend referred me to a contact of hers who took on mentor work. For the price of a coffee, I could pick the brain of someone who knows how to launch a successful business.

    So, how can a mentor help your business?

    Ideally, your mentor will be a steps further up the ladder than you. My mentor runs a successful business herself, and has a similar work approach, so was able to offer me a HUGE amount of knowledge, from cash flow forecasting tips and what percentage I should be taking home, to spotting opportunities that I was too close (or lacking in confidence) to see. I came away from my first coffee session with a notebook packed full of ideas, and a business concept to work on.

    The likelihood is that your mentor will have a bundle of contacts they can refer you to. Those contacts or referrals will be crucial in the development of any ideas you come up with.

    I have a tendency to get really excited about a project, lose confidence that I can do it a few days later and throw it in the ‘good ideas that I’ll kick myself for not doing when someone else does it’ bin. A mentor is the perfect accountability partner to keep you on track. At the end of our session, my mentor set me three objectives to do for our next coffee meeting in a month’s time.

    Have you ever had a mentor? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below!

  • Five things you need to know before hiring a freelancer


    Got loads on your plate and juggling things like a slightly tipsy clown? Thinking about hiring a freelancer to take some of the pressure off? Before you start the process of finding a freelancer (that’s a whole other post), here are five things you need to know before you start.

    Set deadlines

    If you want to have a great working relationship with your freelancer and get effective results, have a firm idea what you want from them first. It’s an easy trap to fall into to think you ‘should’ have a freelancer, without having a firm idea of what you can fill their hired time with.

    Hiring a freelancer often means you’re paying someone by the hour or the day to do a job. So make sure you’ve got a To Do list ready for them – otherwise you’re wasting your own money and their time.

    Pay them on time

    *Puts on stern face* Personally, I think paying purposely late (yes, freelancers know the difference between a ‘lost invoice’ and a lie) is bad manners and, in most cases – inexcusable. Freelancers have to pay bills at the same time as everyone else, and a freelancer paid on time is a happy and productive freelancer. After nearly six years of freelancing, I still fail to understand why some businesses, small businesses in particular, have a 60/90/120 day payment period. If you’re unhappy with their service, tell them in good time and allow them the opportunity to rectify the situation, rather than avoiding them and refusing to pay.

    Basically – if you can pay your employees on time, pay your freelancer on time (Added bonus – if you pay me within a week of getting your invoice, you actually get a discount!)

    Respect their hours

    In the past, I’ve had clients who call me up at 9pm at night or the weekends. My terms of business now detail that my set hours are 8-5, and contact after that (unless previously agreed) will have to wait until working hours. Your freelancer had a life too, and it’s unlikely you’re paying them to work for you every day, so respect that by contacting them within business hours. If you want someone who is available at all times, get an employee. (Or, as my less polite inner voice says, a life)

    Don’t insult freelancers with high expectations and teeny budgets

    Say, for example, you ask for a quote from an experienced freelancer for blog posts. You’ve probably heard about them before and had a recommendation from them because they produce blog posts that excite. They offer a quote of say five posts for £100 (which is a good deal, by the way!). Please don’t go back and ask for 50 posts for £100. It’s beyond cheeky, and borders on insulting.

    Oh, and saying “can you write for free, we’ll give you a byline” when you have a brand new magazine/blog with a tiny readership, isn’t the enticing offer you might think it is. If the freelancer is passionate about the subject, they might be be interested – but don’t make out that you’re doing them a favour.

    If at first you don’t succeed…

    Don’t give up on freelancers! Unfortunately there are a few bad eggs, as there are in every industry, but if you have a bad service from one, please don’t resign yourself to the belief that every freelancer is like that. Ask around for recommendations, check out freelance reviews like PeoplePerHour and check out their LinkedIn profile.

    Working with a freelancer can be a brilliant experience. Promise!

    What tips would you give someone looking to hire a freelancer?

  • How to deal with freelance envy

    freelancenevyPicture the scene: your morning alarm goes off and you roll over to pick up your phone (everyone does that seconds after they wake up, right? RIGHT?). Squinting your eyes and opening your inbox, you find a tastefully-designed newsletter from a freelance friend you did a course with a couple of years ago, who has launched a brand new ecourse. Isn’t that fab? They’ve basically turned into Marie Forleo overnight, and you’re totally chuffed for them. Really. You are.

    Oh, hang on, what’s that uncomfortable feeling in your tummy? Maybe it’s just last night’s Dominos…

    You flick open the Twitter app.  A funky lifestyle blogger you know, who appears to have achieved overnight success with her quirky but totally adorable way of combining food and fashion in one post (let’s call it fooshion), happily tweets about a new collaboration with a brand you’re dying to work with. That feeling in your gut grows. It could be hunger, but you’re pretty sure you’re still full from last night’s Dominos. What kind of human being says no to their Chicken Kickers? (Possibly your blogger friend. They’re all about the vegan diet. A clean diet for you involves not eating that slice of pizza that fell on the floor for 4 seconds after a few beers which were definitely not organic).

    Bad news, freelancer. That feeling in your tummy? It’s envy.

    It’s not that you’re not happy for them or feel they deserve it. You are and you do! But there are times when every freelancer looks at another freelancer, and compares their success to their own experience and success record. And it’s easy to feel like you fall short. Especially if that person started freelancing around the same time as you, or worse *gulp* after you.

    But freelance envy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I quizzed my freelance friends about it, Cathryn Clarke said the following:

    “I see what they’re doing and how they’re living their lives and am jealous because I want that. I want to be making more money, be more confident and being able to mix client work with my own seamlessly. It makes me push harder and focus on what I want to achieve so it’s really good to see other freelancers being successful. I just wish more freelancers would share their successes and tips so that those of us who still feel relatively new to it wouldn’t feel so lost and alone. “

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I think freelance envy exists for a number of reasons.

    1. We perceive others as being perfect, forgetting they edit their life online just as much as we do. Notice how a lot of people don’t actually mention income? Maybe they’re working with amazing brands or travelling the world while blogging, but there’s a good chance they’re having to weigh up whether buying a ticket to that swanky business conference in town is worth living on pasta alone for the next two weeks.
    2. We don’t give them enough credit. The inconvenient truth is, most people get to that point because they worked their arses off.
    3. We underestimate our own situation, or lack confidence in our own skills.
    4. We work on our own, which means it’s harder to see the realities of how others are doing. .We also don’t get that workmate who says ‘That freelancer? PLEASE! She totally got to do that project because her boyfriend works with the boss’, which is totally bitchy but also really comforting.
    5. We don’t know how they’ve become this mega successful person. Where was I when the ‘how to be totally rich and successful and a size 12 on a diet of chocolate alone in three easy steps’ rulebook was given out?
    6. We’re never happy with what we’ve got. Seriously, name a time when you were like ‘I’m 100% happy’ for more than a day. Sober happy.

    But one of the points Cathryn made, is that it makes her ‘push harder and focus on what I want to achieve’. With that in mind, here are three things you can do to turn that envy to your advantage.

    Swap competition for collaboration

    Instead of quietly kicking yourself for not being as awesome as the fortunate freelancer you see (which, fyi, is bullcrap), why not see if there’s anything you can work together on? For example, my blog series A Day In The Life Of A Freelancer came about because I was having a crisis of confidence, and wanted to learn from other freelancers. You could turn that ‘competitor’ into a collaborator, by interviewing them, offering to work with them on a project or even approaching them to be a mentor.

    You might even realise, when speaking to them face to face, that they feel the exact same way you do!

    Repeat the mantra

    Every time you find yourself looking at a friend’s blog or latest newsletter and feel that flutter of envy, I want you to repeat after me – NO ONE IS PERFECT! Sure, they might have landed a mega amazing client, but they probably have a bundle of other problems going on that you don’t know about. Maybe they yearn for more time with their families, dream of a regular paycheck or miss working with small companies and charities.

    Compete….with yourself

    The only person you need to worry about competing with, is yourself. Revisit your goals and objectives. Do you even want the same things as others? How are you doing compared with how you did last year. As long as you’re doing the best you can in the circumstances, you’re succeeding.

    I’d also recommend mindfulness (who doesn’t at the moment, eh?) Every day, make a list of the things you’re grateful for. I love the app My Wonderful Day for this. It’s a good reminder when you flick back, that life is actually pretty good.

    So, how do you deal with freelance envy?

    P.S Emma-Louise sent me these two perfect posters for this post. How perfect are they?


  • Five things I’ve learnt from running an ecourse

    Five lessons learnt from running an ecourse

    Since November last year, I’ve been running a 30 day ecourse for new and aspiring freelancers. It’s been a bit of a (fun) learning curve, and as I’m an open book when it comes to business (sometimes to a fault), I thought it might be interesting to look back on what I’ve learnt from running it. Y’know, in case you fancy doing the same and want to learn from my experiences!

    1) The ecourse is never perfect

    My first trail of thought when planning an ecourse, went something like this:

    “I’ll create an ecourse! Creating the ecourse will take a little time, but once it’s done I won’t need to do anything! I can sit back and watch the money roll in! Actually, I might just add a few more items to my Amazon wishlist to celebrate the success”

    The reality. The ecourse is a constantly evolving project. I tweak things not only between courses, but also throughout each course, depending on how each group is doing. So while the idea of a passive income with very little work is a nice one, realistically it needs constant work (possibly because I’m never 100% satisfied with what I’ve done). Also, I added a Facebook community to the course, which means I’m often chatting to people on there rather than leaving it to do it on its own (which I love, seeing how everyone is getting on with each task is really motivating).

    2) The ecourse won’t make me a millionaire

    I’m working with a niche here. A niche of really awesome people. Each bi-monthly course tends to have been between 10-20 people at the moment. Sure, some people make thousands or millions from these courses. But for the majority of people, a few hundred a month is a great result. Who knows what the future holds, but at the moment I love that I have time to chat to everyone and help people more one-on-one.

    3) Trial and error is essential

    For the March ecourse, I switched from delivering the daily challenges through the Facebook community, to sending it by email. This was partly based on feedback from a couple of people on previous courses and partly because I wondered whether emails would give me more flexibility in the future.

    I’ve only just sent my survey link to those ecourse takers, but my personal feeling is that content is better delivered through the Facebook community. Everyone can chip in with how they’re getting on, it’s easier to access everything in one group and reading something on Facebook can sometimes feel like less effort than reading an email (just me?). The community feel was definitely not there as much with the course sent over newsletter. But I’m glad I did it – it’s important to try things out and see how they get on, as long as you ask for feedback as you do it!

    One other change I tried this time, was to collaborate with a few others to add extras to the course (thanks to Rosie and Jo) and to offer a special deal with Elizabeth if someone bought both her course and my course. As all of our services complemented each other, it made sense – and it led to more sales.

    4) Not everyone will complete the course – or open the emails

    I’d take this personally, but I do this to about 50% of the courses I sign up for – and that’s usually more about my workload or the delivery method, than the course content. Members get free access to future courses as well as the one they’re on, which means that if we do something a different way, they get to benefit from it.

    5) Choose between cheap and quantity, or competitive and less

    The first month I launched the ecourse, I charged a low price. This was mainly because it was a trial course, and I wanted to see how it would go. Which worked well, I had lots of people sign up! But a couple of freelance friends pulled me aside and said ‘I hope you’re going to charge a decent rate next time, rather than peanuts’. When I broke down the costs, I was hugely undercharging. So I upped my charges. The result? Yes, less people signed up. But as the charge was more, I actually made more! Charging a higher price may be a risk, but it’s also important to make it clear that the price you charge is set because you’re offering a high quality service.

    Have you run an ecourse? What did you learn?

  • How to create a Trovit job alert


    Trovit job alert

    As some of you may know, one of the things I do during the work week is teach young people about career skills – from CVs and cover letters to hunting down the perfect job. One of the things that they get very excited about is, Trovit. Trovit is a bit like Google Alerts, but for jobs rather than for mentions online. Every day, you’ll get an email digest of all the jobs that fit your specifications across all the big job sites – so it’s a bit like having your own virtual recruiter.

    While this is great for students and graduates looking to land a job, it’s also a great tool for a freelancer – it also checks out sites like Elance and PeoplePerHour.

    (This isn’t a promoted post, I just really like this tool)

    Got five minutes? Let’s set up a Trovit alert.

    Step 1: Head to Jobs at Trovit


    Step 2: Pop in the search that you want to go for.

    I’ve gone for Freelance in London as it brings up the most results, but I have regular alerts for Blogger and Freelance Online Editor.


    Step 3: Finalise and enter your email

    Happy with your search? Lovely. Hit the ‘Receive the latest job listings by email’ section and enter your email. That’s it! Now every day you’ll get an email summarising all the awesome freelance gigs you could apply for.


    Bonus tip: Set up a divert so it lands in a special sub folder in your email. I’ve got it set up through IFTTT so it lands in my Pocket app to read on the tube.

    Now you can sit back and let the job offers roll in (kidding – this is just something to compliment the pitching you’re already doing, not replace it). Why not Pin this post for later?

    UPDATE: They have an app too!

  • Let’s Pitch Slap Wednesday: Finding new clients


    I’m not really in the habit of telling little white lies or giving the impression I’m the perfect freelancer. Telling porkies tends to only adds pressure to others (and a whole heap on myself). I like to be honest with you – whether it’s about the state of my accounts or a change in the approach I’m taking. I love freelancing, but it’s not all onesie Wednesdays and tweeting for brands.

    So, here’s my truth this week: I have been a lazy freelancer in 2014…in terms of finding new clients. Work has been happily busy, but I’ve lapsed a little bit in terms of hunting down new clients. When things are going well, it’s easy to let these things slip – and you only realise when something happens to a regular client and you’re in a state of panic about finding more regular income.

    Chatting in the Facebook group for my Freelance Lifestyle Ecourse Alumni, several others felt the same – whether they’re brand new freelancers or experienced. So, in the spirit of adopting an accountable approach where we can share tips and set ourselves goals, I’m renaming today ‘Pitch Slap Wednesday’. Today, I want to make step to hunting down some new clients – and I want you to join me!

    So, here’s what to do. Choose three things from the list below, and put them into action today. There are a mix of tasks that take between a few minutes and a couple of hours, so even if you’re tight for time you should still be able to do something.

    • Update social media bios with your latest info and keywords – 10 minutes
    • Find a local networking event, and book your place/email the organiser – 45 minutes
    • Update PeoplePerHour/Hourlie/website bidding site bios – 45 minutes
    • Look up the hashtag for your local area on Twitter, and have a browse for potential opportunities. Tweet using the hashtag – 15 minutes
    • Pull up Google, and look for the local business parks. Look at the businesses, and consider whether it’s worth dropping a leaflet/pack round to them in the next week with more information on what they do – 60 minutes
    • Check out some of the groups on LinkedIn and Google+ that link up to the service or skill you offer – 30 minutes
    • Check out the services page on your website. Is it doing you justice? Is it SEO friendly? Spend some time auditing it, and some time on Google Keywords working out which terms work best – 60-120 minutes
    • Ask around – you’ll probably be surprised by how many of your friends and family don’t really understand what you do. Explain it in terms of what they’d need, and you’ll probably find one or two will have a lead for you – 60 minutes
    • Check out some online job sites you’ve never used – 90 minutes
    • Get in contact with previous clients, to see if they have any needs. Also, consider offering them a referral incentive if they don’t have anything for you but know someone who does – 30 minutes
    • Consider a special offer – whether it be a 30 minute taster session, discount if they pre-book several months work or a free ebook when they purchase your services. – 30 minutes
    • *NEW* Give LinkedIn Pulse’s new blogging platform a try – a great way to reach out to business contacts – 1 hour
    • *NEW* Create a Slideshare presentation to share publicly (this is on my list today!) – 1 hour
    • *NEW* Check in with your previous clients, to see if they have any needs – 30 minutes

    How will you boost your freelance business today?

  • How to post an Hourlie on People Per Hour


    A common way to get freelance work, especially in the first couple of years, is to use a freelance marketplace. I’ve spoken about them in the past (especially this video chat with Rosie), and I’ve heard some great successful stories about PeoplePerHourand Elance in particular. One of the things I touched on during the last hangout is one of the functions on PeoplePerHour – the Hourlie.

    The Hourlie is a task or project at a set price, packaged up to make it easy for marketplace buyers to purchase your product. It’s a low maintenance way to use sites like PPH, as you don’t have to pitch for work – the idea is for buyers to find you and choose the best package for them. You can also add extras to the package, like additional word counts or an option to fastrack to project, in order to upsell. Creating an Hourlie is a great way to create a passive promotion for you – it’s there in the background silently working away for you.

    Want to give it a try? Here’s how to create an Hourlie.

    Step 1: Once you have a PPH account, visit the Hourlie page. 


    The Hourlie page will take you to setup page. It’s simple to fill in – add a headline, choose your price and timescale and a category. Then pick your tags wisely (have a look at other people’s hourlies if you want a good example). Adding images, videos and quotes or recommendations will really boost your Hourlie, and improve the chances of being hired.


    The second half of the page is an opportunity to add in more information, tell the buyer what you’ll need from them and add on any extra services. Finally, you can choose your location.

    Step 2: Choose whether to boost your Hourlie


    Once you hit ‘Post Hourlie, you’ll be taken to a page with the option to boost your post. This costs about £9.95, and will keep you featured at the top for seven days, and increases your chance of being in the newsletter. This is optional and not essential.

    Step 3: Check your Hourlie

    screenshot645Once your Hourlie is complete, you can check it before launching it as live.

    And you’re done! Pretty quick and easy, right?

  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Juggling clients


    Here’s a scenario:

    You have four clients.

    • One low maintenance client, who only requires a little work each month
    • One great client who brings in about a third of your income and requires about a third of your time
    • One occasional client, who tends to pop in with work that needs a very quick turnaround
    • One client who sits at the high end of the maintenance scale, and makes up over half of your monthly income

    Juggling several clients can be difficult, and no client is the same. High maintenance clients are fine – as long as the pay off is good and you know how to deal with them! Equally, low maintenance clients are a dream, but don’t fall into the habit of dropping your standards or your fees for them.

    So, how do you juggle a varied selection of clients?

    • Analyse your clients, their needs and how much time they’ll require. Stick it in a fancy diagram if that’s your bag
    • Set boundaries. If a client pays for three days a month, make it clear that any extra over that will be charged (or that they’ll have to wait until the following month for you to continue). There are a bundle of apps for tracking how long you’ve worked.
    • Set contact hours. If a client is being high maintenance, make sure you’ve set hours that you can be contacted.
    • Contact ALL your clients on a regular basis. A simple email to update or check in can pick up on any problems early, and keep your clients happy
    • That occasional client? Suggest a retainer. If work tends to pop up on a monthly basis, charging a retainer may encourage them to think ahead a little more (call me an optimist!)
    • Work in blocks of time where possible. Dedicating a morning to one client and an afternoon to another can make it easier to separate workloads. Easier than jumping between lots of different tasks
    • Manage your email smarter. If you find you’re a slave to your email, consider restricting checking your email to blocks in the day.

    How do you juggle clients?