If you’re anything like me, you probably feel a little funny about how often you check your stats. I check them throughout the day, with a regularity I’m almost ashamed to admit. There’s even a particular stat program I use which plots out a sexy graph, above which are written the words: “Statistics updated every 24 hours.” That doesn’t keep me from checking it about three times a day.
Regardless of the social implications, we stat-freaks are on the right track. For whether you acknowledge it or not statistics are the very backbone of your business, your production, your income and pretty much everything else that matters. I use them (not just look at them) every single day, whether it’s at my blog or examining my design business.
What are statistics?
If you look up “statistic” in pretty much any dictionary, you’ll notice that even people who write dictionaries have bad days. A survey of dictionaries I have to hand uncovered the following definitions for the word “statistic”:
Most freelancers are talented, hard-working, creative, and do great work. Their one Achilles heel? Marketing!
Your business can be divided into two segments-service and marketing. If you are reading this article, then the assumption is that you care about your service and about improving your business. The second part of any business is marketing. Don’t shy away from tooting your own horn. A lot of freelancers I know are not comfortable with marketing because they feel like “Slick Willy” a typical car salesmen stereotype. But marketing doesn’t have to be underhanded. In fact, marketing is really about being an excellent communicator. Create a strong message, and then communicate it with confidence so that the people who are in need of your service can know who you are. They want you as much as you want them!
Marketing is often one of the most misunderstood concepts in the world, and most people flat out hate it–and I have an inbox full of queries to prove it.
So, let’s look at what marketing is not-
When I began freelancing I made two decisions right off the bat:
- Unless I was in danger of starving, I would never again work in a sterile cubicle. I’d pick a cubicle over death…but not by much,
- I’d keep my space happy and all my favorite things close by me in the office.
This probably sounds like freelance advice from the Antichrist to many of you, but hear me out.
One of my hobbies is playing guitar. Actually, for me playing guitar is a sinister all-consuming obsession. Some days I wish I were addicted to crack instead; I’d be in much better shape.
Productivity specialists and professional organizers are often of the same opinion, namely that you should move your guitars and other distractions into a different room from where you work. Supposedly you’ll be more productive that way. Heck, while you’re at it why not move everything except your office out of your office, which is supposed to be empty and used for working only, right? Continue Reading
With the start of the New Year upon us, the likelihood of you deciding to head off into Freelancing full-time may be tickling your senses. We understand your passion to make it on your own, and present our Top 10 Freelance Resolutions for this coming year. Already freelancing? Hopefully some of these concepts will help you recommit to your endeavor, and subsequently bring you success in the years to come. Continue Reading
I know there’s not a single FSw reader who’s going to call up their friends after this and say, “Dude, I just read a fantastic post on paperwork!” It’s also December, twelve months too late for this tax/paperwork tip to actually do you any good.
But luckily there’s another year where this one came from, and hopefully this will make things easier next time around.
Throughout the year I do my bills, invoicing and other paperwork every week. Sometimes I forget and sometimes I have a lousy week where there’s no paperwork to do. But about 90% of the time I do my paperwork every single Friday.
When you keep your paperwork fresh and current like this it takes about two minutes a week. All your current receipts and invoices are right there on the top of the pile, fresh in your purse or wallet, or near the top of your email inbox. Enter their numbers into a spreadsheet, file them behind last week’s papers and you’re done. Continue Reading
One of the keys to freelance happiness is working with great clients — people you can trust, who you enjoy working with, who are encouraging and motivating and brilliant. Excellence inspires excellence.
On the other hand, having horrible clients is a sure way to make you miserable. They’ll lower your job satisfaction, lower the quality of your work, and in general do very little to improve your career (and more likely, will actually hurt it). None of that is good news for a freelancer.
Our problem, however, is that we tend to stick with a client if we’ve been working with them for awhile, simply because it’s safer, and it’s more difficult (not to mention a little scary) to find new clients. So we stay with bad clients for longer than we should.
Break out of that rut. If you’re staying with clients just because they’re long-time clients, take a look at the following list and consider whether it’s time to look for new pastures. Quick note: I’d recommend that you look for new clients before dropping the old ones, just so that you’ll have enough income coming in.
1. Too critical. While honest feedback can be very valuable, some clients go beyond honesty and just complain too much. They’re never happy, and they make you feel bad about your work. You don’t need that. Working for positive clients is much more satisfying and motivating.
2. Slow payers. Does it take a month or more for a client to pay after you send them your invoice? In this electronic age, payment is as simple as a few clicks in PayPal. It shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks to make a payment, at any rate.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Shane for this fantastic post. I have to say that this is one of my favourite articles in the history of FSw, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did
According to the Webster Dictionary, a practice is:
- to follow or observe habitually or customarily
- to exercise or pursue as a profession, art, or occupation
- to perform or do repeatedly in order to acquire skill or proficiency
Five years ago, John Maxwell, the author of every leadership book conceivable, told a group of us at a conference: “I can predict the long term outcome of your success if you show me your daily habits.” I have often heard that most business is 90% science (or how to) and 10% art (which is about you). None of the practices below are technical / how to’s for one simple reason – you should already be good at what you do. After all, you are selling your services as an expert, and if you truly suck at your specialty, then god help you and those who hire you. It’s those vital practices that you may NOT be good at that creep up behind you and then take you out.
Want help solving your unique freelance marketing problems? Starting today, Along with my regular Thursday column, I will be rotating marketing case-studies and advice into the mix.
If you would like to be considered for a future marketing breakout column, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and include a few paragraphs about who you are, what you want to do and what help you’d like. If it is a good fit, I will publish your request along with a detailed analysis and marketing advice in a future column.
Our first Ask Jonathan Marketing Breakout letter comes from blog-consultant, Michael Martine at Remarkablogger.com. He writes:
My name is Michael Martine. I’ve been blogging regularly since 2003 and have owned my namesake’s domain since 2004, and blogging on there since 2005. I’ve done freelance web design and web strategy consulting a bit, but recently I’ve decided to get real and take it to the next level. I changed the name to Remarkablogger and bought remarkablogger.com. The blog itself will soon be redesigned to better reflect the name and the image I want for it.
I offer help for people to begin blogging without making all the typical beginner’s mistakes and to effectively use blogging to help their business grow. I’m a blog consultant and coach. What I do is help people start, manage, and create content for their blogs better than they could do on their own in a much shorter time and with better results. This is done through email or phone/IM consultations and through design/develop/install work.
I’ve had an initial burst of work right out of the gate, but I already see signs of things slowing down. My marketing/sales challenge is much like any other starting freelancer’s: acquiring new clients and establishing a high enough baseline of income that I can leave behind the 9-5 job. My goal is to be on retainer and available to help enough clients so that I can earn a comfortable income without having to completely bust my ass for 16 hours a day. Right now I’m not doing any advertising, but I’m considering PPC advertising.
Thanks, Jonathan, for making the offer and for taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing back from you.
Thanks for your e-mail. Sounds like you’re off to a good start, the blog looks nice and clean and is easy to navigate. And, I like that you added in a box on the front-page to promote your blog consulting services and articles for beginning bloggers. You’ve got some great content there.
So let’s figure out how to make some simple changes designed to kick-start your blog consulting business. Let’s start with your on-blog efforts.
You may think you’re pretty good at what you do. And you may be right.
But you’re not the best you can be, by a long shot. None of us are, and we might never be. It’s important for your career as a freelancer and for you personally to take what skills you have and improve them, continually, and add new skills.
Why is it important? Professionally, it will take you to the top of your game, and keep you there. It will get you better assignments and clients, better rates, a better reputation. Sharpening your skills can bring nothing but good things for your freelance career.
Personally, improvement is important. Not because you aren’t valuable and worthy and a good person already. You are. But because improvement keeps you alive, keeps you challenged and interested and passionate for what you do. Once you have no further challenges in your work, things become static and boring and tedious. But if you continually look to improve what you do, there’s never a dull moment.
So how do you continually improve your skills? Here are some suggestions:
By Leo Babauta
A freelancer’s life is often everything but simple. Multiple projects being juggled, often along with a day job, emails and phone calls and IM, invoices and payments, time tracking and more.
It doesn’t have to be that complicated.
A simplified freelance life would be one with projects or assignments you love to do, but not so much that you are overloaded. You use simple tools, you work without distraction, you are lean and mean and have time for other things in life that you love.
It might sound like a fantasy, but it’s an ideal that can be achieved. In my life, I’ve reduced my amount of work while increasing my pay … reduced the amount of time I spend working, and the work that I still do is work that I really enjoy. I haven’t achieved perfect simplicity yet — it’s really a process, not a destination — but my life is greatly simplified now compared to only a year or two ago.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Identify complicators. What’s complicating your life? Or is it a who? Think about what stresses you out, what makes you overworked, what wastes your time. You might give this a few days, taking notes and making a list. Once you have a good list of complicators, you have a list of things you need to eliminate or simplify. That’ll take a bit longer, but in most cases it’s possible.
2. Identify the essential. What are the essential things in your life? The essential clients and projects? What do you love doing? Make a short list, as these are the things you want to keep as you get rid of the other stuff. Read this article for more.
3. Scale down your work. This will sound impossible, but you really can scale back. You just have to set limits, and stick to them. Let’s say that you’re currently doing 50 hours of freelance work a week (as an example — your number may be wildly different). And let’s say you only want to work 30 hours a week. Well, set a 6-hour-a-day schedule for 5 days, and stick to it. You’ll have less time to do the same amount of work, but that’ll actually force you to focus on the essential tasks, cut out the less important tasks, and stop wasting time. You’ll end up doing less work, but the work you do is the work that counts, and the work that pays well (see Item #10).
By Leo Babauta
Freelancers, more than regular employees, must be effective in order to survive. Whether you are freelancing on the side of a normal job, or working completely for yourself, you don’t have the luxury of taking on wasted jobs or doing the unnecessary.
You can’t afford it.
To increase your effectiveness, you need to take everything you do — from projects and assignments to everyday tasks to emails and IMs — and identify the most essential. And then put your focus on those things, to the exclusion of almost everything else.
If you can do that, you will not only free up more of your time, you will be able to make more money and advance your freelance career. Let’s look at how to do it.
1. Projects and assignments. If you’re lucky, you’ve got more assignments than you can handle. That’s better than not having enough to pay the bills, of course, but it also creates the problem of not having enough time to do everything. And if you commit to more projects than you can possibly complete on time, you are decreasing your effectiveness, stressing yourself out, and hurting yourself in the long run. Clients will realize that you are overworked, and that either your quality is suffering or you’re missing deadlines.
Instead, focus only on the essential projects. That’ll be hard to do at first, especially if you’re overcommitted, but the key is to make it a habit to identify which projects are essential, and renegotiate the rest.
What’s essential? That will vary depending on your situation, of course, but the key question is: which project has the most long-term benefit for me? If you get more money writing an article for a small publication, but get more publicity though less money for writing for the New York Times (for example), I’d take the Times article. A little less money now is overshadowed by the huge boost in visibility and reputation that a higher-profile article will get you.
Focusing on essential projects will allow you to get the most benefit for the time you spend. It will eventually get you more money for each project, and reduce the number of projects you have to do. By focusing on essential projects, and not on the less important ones, you’ll also cut a lot of headaches and wasted time.
2. Routine tasks. The same concept applies to all the tasks you do. What other tasks do you do each day? Make a list, and put an asterisk next to the most essential tasks. Eliminate the rest if possible.
By Leo Babauta
If you’re looking to be a freelance writer, your bread and butter will likely be submitting articles to magazines. And while the big names in the business usually have no problems in selling their articles, the less experienced writers have to work harder at it.
Working harder doesn’t necessarily equal success, however. It takes a smart approach to sell an article to a magazine editor. Smarts, along with a great article idea and persistence.
Follow these essential steps, and don’t give up, no matter how many times you’re rejected.
Choose the right magazine. You probably want to submit to magazines about topics you’re very familiar with — stuff you’ve written about or worked with before. If you go with topics you don’t know much about, you’ll be doing much more research, and your article will probably seem a little more amateurish. You’ll also want to choose magazines that match your tone and style, although if you’re just starting out you may not have that luxury — you might have to match your tone and style with whatever publication will accept you.
Trade magazines. If you aren’t that experienced, you might try and fail to get into a consumer magazine (the ones you see on news stands) … instead, you might want to start with trade magazines. Instead of a general computer magazine, for example, try for the computer trade mags. They’re generally a bit easier to get into as the competition isn’t as fierce.
Know the magazine and its market. If you try to submit an article to a magazine blindly, without knowing much about the magazine, you’re wasting your time. Your proposal should be tailored specifically for that magazine. And in order to do that, you need to do a little research. Start by reading back issues of the magazine — that will give you a decent idea of what the magazine’s about, and who their audience is. Find back issues in your local library or online. Look out to see if most of their articles are written by staff or freelance writers — if it’s mostly freelance, you have a decent shot. Also look for tone and style, how many quotes they use, and whether the articles are informal or filled with facts and stats.