As I just passed my second year anniversary in business (you can read my thoughts on year one here) I thought it would be a good time to take stock of where I’d got to again.
FreshBooks kindly provided me with this infographic for navigating the freelance galaxy. Take a look, and read my thoughts below on freelancing secrets.
Before You Embark – The Essentials
My favourite piece of kit that I’ve acquired in the last year has been my Macbook Air. It’s much much lighter than my old laptop, which was a real pain in the neck (literally) to carry around. Plus the cable was almost as heavy!
With a Mac I’ve been able to try out new software like Sketch for web design and Screenflow for screencasting, which are intuitive and easy to use.
Client Star Field – Surround Yourself With The Right People
I’m still actively networking and find that networking and referrals are the best ways to gain new clients.
I also started blogging more regularly after taking on Sarah Arrow’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge earlier this year. This led to me giving a talk on business blogging at a networking lunch last month. Something that I wouldn’t have had the courage to do a year ago!
Lately I’ve been working on my ideal client profile, so I can work with more of the people I like to work with and not the energy vampires.
I’ve also made some good industry contacts who have provided good guidance and mentorship:
- Spencer Forman for WordPress and entrepreneurship
- Sarah Arrow for blogging and marketing
- Chris Marr for content marketing
- Sue Vizard for business advice and accountability.
Land of the Peaks and Pits
I’ve experienced feast and famine freelancing. The new year has traditionally been a bad time for me – I think everyone has spent their money at Christmas and is waiting for their bank balance to recover!
Since about June this year my work has become more consistent, which is a good thing. The challenge has then become to space work out and not take on too many projects simultaneously.
What I’ve learned is:
- Keep on with marketing
- Look for clients anywhere and everywhere
- Get as many leads as possible, as some jobs will fall through
- Be friendly and helpful to everyone you meet
- Give away some of your knowledge for free (but don’t offer to do too much work that you could be paid for for free!)
Recurring revenue is a very good thing and I need to secure more of it. In my line of work this means monthly maintenance contracts and methods of generating passive income (ebooks, courses etc.) I haven’t started on passive income generation yet but it is very much on my radar for the future.
Isolation Zone – Beating Loneliness
It can be a detached existence, working freelance, especially if you’re solo. My usual outlets are local business networking events.
I also joined the committee of the Edinburgh Businesswomen’s Club earlier this year and have enjoyed working with other inspirational ladies locally.
After years of resisting joining Facebook, I caved in and now have my own Facebook business page. But the most valuable thing I have found there is the groups. I’ve joined quite a few now and find them invaluable for sharing content, asking questions and strengthening relationships.
Time-Waster’s Black Hole
Some days I find it hard to get started or I fritter away time on trivial things. Social media is a pretty good way to waste time if you don’t have objectives! I love watching people on Periscope (see below) but before you know it, half an hour can be gone with nothing to show for it.
I’ve written about time management tools before and I need to remind myself of those lessons.
Mike Gardner, The Time Doctor, also has an excellent blog about time management – I highly recommend you read it.
Gray Area – The Work/Life Balance
I still struggle with the boundaries between work and life; they often get blurred. Sometimes my social life has to be planned as much as my work appointments.
I think it helps to have a separate work area and to stick to specific working hours. I also like to take a rest break in the afternoon and make some time to take a walk each day to get some fresh air and exercise.
I reserve Saturdays as my day off from work. I also don’t answer emails on the evenings and weekends, even though I might read them. The line has to be drawn somewhere.
There are some good tips on getting the work/life balance right in this news story from the Guardian.
Planet You – Blow Your Own Trumpet
It’s somewhat paradoxical that I enjoy networking when I’m quite introverted and I’m the least self promotional person I know. I don’t really utilize social media to promote myself, but then it’s not really about me, it’s about serving others.
I just discovered this post on marketing for introverts and it’s so me. I do like to take my time to reply to comments, emails and social posts and not just shoot off replies quickly.
My favourite social medium is Twitter – I like the immediacy of it (yes, irony alert!) and the fact that everyone is so accessible. Twitter chats and live events are best for engagement.
Periscope is a medium I’ve recently got into. It’s a live video streaming app. I think it’s a great way for people to get to know others and see their real personalities. I haven’t done my own scope yet. I’m quite self-conscious. I got pulled onto Blab the other day and felt well out my comfort zone. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I felt put on the spot, which I don’t like. I definitely need my thinking time, which is why I love blogging so much.
Accounting Alley – Watch Those Numbers!
I can’t stress enough how important it is keep up to date with your accounts, and I got caught out again this year and ended up in a sea of paperwork for a week. The one positive point is that my accountant complimented me on how organised my paperwork was! 🙂
One thing I’ve noticed recently is that I’ve taken out a number of monthly subscriptions to online services and ended up not utilising them, so I need to audit what I’m subscribed to and not take on any more than I can manage, as it’s just money down the drain otherwise.
You might find it helpful to try out FreshBooks’ online invoicing to organise and keep track of your invoices. You can see when they have been viewed and paid, and automatic reminders are sent out if they are left unpaid. Great for your cash flow!
Corporate Temptresses and Retirement Neverland
I do get the occasional approach from recruiters on LinkedIn, and I’ve connected with a number, but I value the freelance lifestyle. I’m currently writing this with a heavy cold from my bed – I couldn’t do that in an office. The flexibility and freedom that freelancing brings are very important to me.
As for retirement… haven’t thought about that yet, but the dream would be to work 20 hours a week (or less) doing what I love.
Are you working freelance? What do you like and dislike about it? Please leave a comment and start the conversation.