I learn better when I’m active as I read. I love to have a pen or highlighter in my hand when I study. It helps me identify points of reference and make outlines of the subject material to get a better grip on a topic. Diigo helps me to do all of that on the Worldwide Web, and version 4.0 has just been released, adding features and making the experience even better. Continue Reading
Business depends on communication, and communication is a two-way street. Not only do we need to develop the skill not just of making ourselves understood clearly and accurately, but we need to return the favor and put some effort into understanding the other person.
In a recent article I talked about the value of active listening for improving business. Only 35% of communication is contained in the actual words we are hearing or reading. The other 65% of the message is contained in body language, facial expression, tone and rate of speech, and other non-verbal aspects of communication. Active listening techniques can help us make the most of that 65%.
I’ve inherited the hoarding gene. I hoard an unmanageable number of pieces of paper containing “useful” bits of information that I claim will one day be useful.
I’ve just come down to Sydney to visit my Dad in hospital, and after we took him home, I was graphically reminded where I inherited my hoarding. Hundreds of VCR tapes containing recorded television shows line the walls. Piles of books and magazines fill the spare room. Tons of unopened dog show prizes adorn his home. If hoarding was a sport, Dad would be in the Olympics!
The last thing you want to do as a freelancer is get out of the loop. You want to stay up to date with your skills and the best way to run your business as a freelancer. And that’s why you’re here at FreelanceSwitch.
Reading is a great way to stay in touch, and that’s the purpose of most of the articles here. I often get great ideas as I read them, and the comments from readers help me feel part of a supportive community.
Podcasts are another way I stay in touch. I find opportunities every day when I can’t read, but I can listen – and podcasts help me to reclaim those times and make them fruitful. The time I spend driving, exercising and washing up are all good times to listen to podcasts.
Do you listen to podcasts? Why not try it? Listen to the experiences and tips of other freelancers, and from experts in your trade. Here is a list that should get you started. Let us know which ones you found helpful in the comments.
Finding the right workflow can make a tremendous difference in the productivity of a freelancer, and I have been working very hard at this over the last few weeks. I have made sure that there is enough time each day and each week to accomplish all of the tasks that I’m responsible for. And I’m learning when I’m most productive and have the most energy, and I have been using those times effectively to maximize productivity. But even with careful planning and the best of intentions, managing time and workflow can be a challenge. This week has been one of those times.
Imagine we’re having a conversation, and I’m telling you about where I live. I might describe how Eagleby is located between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and mention the names of important roads. I might explain that Eagleby is situated between twin rivers, and the bird life in our wetlands—including eagles—attracts bird watchers from around the world. I might also mention that the reputation of some parts of Eagleby is summed up by the name given it by the locals: “Illegalby”.
While I was talking, most likely you were only half-listening. Perhaps you were also thinking about lunch, organizing three things you need to get done this afternoon, daydreaming about how cool you think eagles are, evaluating some ideas for a new website, and wishing I would change the subject.
Now imagine that the context of the conversation was that you were about to drive to Eagleby to meet with me about an important job. You would have listened in an entirely different way. And that’s the difference between passive and active listening. In this article we’ll look at why active listening is an essential skill for freelancers.
Change is on my mind. This week has been my first week as a full-time web worker. I feel like I have been initiated into a club, and have a new sense of freedom. My home is my office, my work hours are flexible, and I can wear what I want. I like those changes!
I also find myself thinking about the changes I need to make for my new work situation to be as effective as possible. This week I am away from home, and I have been thinking about major and minor adjustments I will need to make in my work space and lifestyle. My home office has been quite effective on a part-time basis, but will it cut it when I will be there all day (or all night), when I need to concentrate when the kids get home from school, and when I am under pressure to get a task finished?
Here are five issues I need to deal with when I am working from home next week:
Freelancing can sometimes feel very lonely. You have left behind the finance department, the IT department and several layers of management. You have also left behind your colleagues – the friends you worked with, bounced ideas off, asked for tips, and borrowed inspiration from when you felt dry. There may be times that you miss all of those people – and all of that support.
Many of you are freelancers because you are good at one thing – your craft, your art, your trade. Now you spend each day doing what you love. Except that you have also taken on a bunch of jobs that you may not be good at – bookkeeper, manager, computer support person, marketer. You took on those jobs because they are part of the freelancing deal, not because you’re good at them. And sometimes you’re not good enough.
Where do you turn to for support? When things are not going well, when problems arise that are outside of your specialty, when you need professional advice, or when you’re just plain too busy, you need a support system. It’s better to start building one before you need it.
Financially, you are more secure if you have multiple income streams. In the same way it is important to build diversity into your support network. You don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket. Here are some great places to find support. Continue Reading
Freelance businesses can have small beginnings. I found our recent poll on “Where Are You Taking Your Business” interesting. It was educational to see where everyone is heading with their freelancing. Most are building a business for themselves. Only 7% of people are using freelancing to get themselves paid employment. I’m heading in the opposite direction: scaling down my full-time employment to grow my hours available for freelancing.
I’ve been balancing freelancing with employment for several years now. After starting my computer support business, I took on some part-time employment to stabilize my income. Although the hourly rate wasn’t wonderful, it was good knowing that there would be a certain amount of money in my bank to pay the rent. In those first few months of freelancing my income fluctuated wildly from week to week.
This is word of mouth marketing. Photo by Hamed Saber.
Word of mouth works! A potential client hears rave reviews about your products and services from someone they trust. The advertising is believable and motivating. And it doesn’t cost you anything – other than consistently delivering a service that keeps your clients happy and coming back for more.
It’s surprisingly effective. One of my freelancing spheres is computer support to small businesses and home users. Over two years ago I reached the limits of my availability, and stopped advertising. Since then I have continued to receive hours of work most weeks purely from word of mouth. Two friends will be chatting over coffee. One will mention computer problems, the other will mention me, and another job is in the bag.
But word-of-mouth advertising reaches a very limited set of people. It only reaches as far as the friends of your clients, and only when there is a knowledge of their need for your services. That’s where testimonials come in. They take word-of-mouth advertising, and make it more accessible.