Photo by karindalziel.
You’ve surely heard the term GTD, aka Getting Things Done, coined by David Allen and spawning many dozens of desktop and web applications, not to mention some popular GTD websites. Some freelancers read or scan them religiously.
Personally, I can’t even get through the principles of GTD, let alone apply them. It seems like a ridiculously complex approach for something that could be so much simpler.
I’m not the first to say it, but I feel that GTD is too structured and too restrictive. For example: six levels of focus?! (Even this one-page short version of GTD seems too complex.) Consider that if you’re not getting something done, it’s probably due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Wanting to over-deliver and give clients a 110% effort and not knowing where to start.
- Feeling restricted from too much structured planning.
- Feeling overwhelmed from lack of any planning.
- Overbooking on client projects.
- Not really wanting to do it.
- Poor health, or personal/family distractions.
Out of these reasons, #6 is something that you’ll have to solve separately, and #4-5 are solved by saying “no”. Reasons #1-3 are the ones to watch for: these probably cause most procrastination because you don’t know how to start. These are resolved by taking a simpler starting approach: GTS. Continue Reading
Photo by thepretenda.
I’ve been freelancing for about five years now, sometimes only part time, and sometimes in a serious attempt to rake in all the cash I can before I drop dead from project overload. Yet when I read the freelancing sites out there I hardly ever find mention of my situation. You see, I’ve always managed to freelance while working a paid job. I don’t mean I’ve worked, then gone home and beavered away – I mean I’ve gone to my paid employment AND freelanced at the same time.
I deliberately hunt for positions that I call “Empty Jobs”. These are the oddball, or even plain boring, non-career focused jobs that most people overlook. The pay isn’t great, and it’s likely to be a dead end as far as career progression. But I love them. To me it’s like a glorified Work For the Dole program. I turn up, I do the pea-sized brain job I was hired for, I take my paycheck. And with all of the spare hours I have, I write, or research or do whatever takes my fancy.
But wait, I hear you cry. Isn’t this unethical? Surely I’m stealing from my employers if I’m also pulling in paid freelance work. I’m double dipping. Well, yes. The trick is to find the right Empty Job – with a boss and work culture that allows you the freedom to fill in your spare time in whatever way you see fit. For me this means my basic food and shelter are always covered and I’m protected from the absolute highs and lows of the freelance world. I satisfy my creative urges *and* my desires to afford a nice house and new pyjamas at the same time. Continue Reading
Photo by notsogoodphotography.
A few days ago, Marie Baca wrote a wonderful and well-intentioned post called The Five Most Common Mistakes of Female Freelancers that turned out to be somewhat controversial in the comments.
So, why don’t we even the imbalance up a bit with the five most common mistakes that male freelancers make?
1. Your desk is not your home
“You men,” my wife once said, as I slaved over some copy late at night, “are so prone to workaholism.”
There’s no denying that women do this too, but for every workaholic female I’ve met, there have been five guys burning the midnight oil. Women are better at this thing called “having rational boundaries.”
That groove in your chair? That’s not meant to be there. Just because you work from home does not mean you have to check your email within five minutes of waking up, or stick around until midnight because your clients in other countries are only just waking up. Email exists for a reason. Continue Reading
Photo by re_birf.
I’m not a big fan of generalizations, but I’m also painfully aware that when it comes to freelancing, there are a number of women out there who aren’t getting the gigs and compensation commensurate with their experience.
You can blame society, you can blame your clients—and who am I to tell you that you are wrong? —But at the end of the day, there’s nothing you can really do except change the way you approach your business. In order to do that, you need to know the top five most common mistakes made by female freelancers and how to avoid them.
Of course, male freelancers make these mistakes as well, but in my experience these missteps are particularly detrimental for women. Continue Reading
Photo by JasonRogers
You’re at an interview for a project. Your potential client decides to select you for the job. Better still, they are willing to give you double the rate you had requested.
As you walk out of the meeting feeling confident about winning the project, you hear your inner voice start to nag you about a few small details. By the time you walk out of the building, you realize something: there’s a certain thing they asked you to do that requires a skill you haven’t mastered yet… and the project is due in 24 hours.
I’ve run into this problem a few times in my life. I accepted projects without really knowing if I could finish them. And yet, all of these projects helped pushed me to the next level. Nowadays, I understand why I was able to advance myself through that pressure: by using Parkinson’s Law.
According to Wikipedia, the law holds that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” This means that when given a limited amount of time, your focuses increases, and you’re forced to give attention only to what you need to do. By using this powerful law, you’ll be able to perform your best work.
You can also use this same law to increase your skill level. Continue Reading
Photo by notsogoodphotography.
Many freelancers I’ve talked to can list a whole lot of positives to going solo. When asked about the downsides, however, I’ve found many people say that they miss the opportunity to talk about work with their co-workers. You know, not just telling your spouse that today’s client was a pain in the butt: real talk about your marketing, business strategies, changes in the market and the opportunity to bounce new ideas off people.
One solution for this missing-link is to start a sparring circle of freelancers. You can do this either online or live, for example, at a coffee shop (this has the added bonus of getting out of the four walls). The idea is to find a small group of likeminded people who have the same needs. That is, to talk about their business with others who’re interested and able to give feedback.
Here’s what we’ve found works for us in our small sparring circle:
1. Do the basics
Start by answering the basic questions in writing: Who are you? What do you want to do? Who are your clients? How will you reach them? What do you charge? Even the more experienced people in the circle should do this as circumstances have often changed since the last time they took the time out to think about these things. The answers to these questions put everything that follows into perspective. Continue Reading
Photo by srboisvert.
So, you’ve got a good idea; a creative solution for a brief. Or you’ve just won a pitch. Fabulous. Now you’ve got to build the thing. If you can do that with the effortless lubrication of motivation from start to finish you’re lucky (and a bit unusual). If, like most of us, you find there are parts of the process where drive is a struggle, read on …
Take a look at these five key motivations for the creative process and work out where the force is strong with you. Tailoring your work to suit your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses can mean jobs become rewarding activities rather than laborious headaches.
Most people are strongly motivated by only one or two of the following. It might help to imagine recent projects from your own work. Think of examples where you were involved in the job from start to finish and see if you can spot any patterns. Continue Reading
Photo by FABIOLA MEDEIROS.
Although there are numerous bright aspects to freelancing, day in day out it’s not easy to keep focused and keep producing your best work for clients. Focus can easily be lost, direction shortsighted, and shortcuts taken. There are a few things you can do to relieve a major chunk of this pressure and stress and start leading a lot more simple freelancing life.
Take Away The Unnecessary
Keep asking yourself, does this “something” add anything to my life? If you have to think about an answer to the question for more than a few seconds, it doesn’t. Remove it from your life. Throw it away. Clear out the space visually and mentally.
There’s no use keeping around a piece of digital material (RSS feed, song, file, bookmark) if it’s not adding anything to your life or helping you in some way. Try to simplify things down and keep only the essentials, both in the material and the evolving digital world. Continue Reading
Photo by Arwen Abendstern.
After placing the last plate in the dishwasher yesterday, I poured in the detergent, set the dial, and burst in to tears. It was not the chemicals or the hormones. Okay, probably a little bit of the hormones. Okay, probably mostly the hormones. But it was also because it’s been almost a full year since I made the freelance switch, and I was ready to admit to the kitchen sink that I am, in fact, lonely.
Look, I don’t get lonely. I clutch jealously at control of my life and my time like the One Ring. Days and days will go by and I’ll happily not leave my office except to go to Mass, at which point I’ll pile my purse and jacket in the pew next to me and daaaaare you with my eyes to sit on the other side. And if you do plop yourself there, you keep your sticky paw to yourself. I will genially wish you peace from my five-foot bubble of personal space, my brother. And also with you.
Nonetheless, yesterday I realized that I cannot remember the last time I have been shopping with another woman, and surfaced in tears because of it.
“But,” said my husband as I wept on him over this, “you don’t like to shop. We couldn’t afford to shop even if you did.”
“I knoooooow.” I covered my face with my arm.
“Aren’t I your friend?”
“You don’t understand about shoes.” Continue Reading
Photo by mandj98.
The engine in a NASCAR racecar produces, on average, more than 750 horsepower. That’s more than twice the horsepower of most production engines on the street. You wouldn’t guess it, but NASCAR engines are very similar to street engines. They use the same cylinder bore centerlines as street engines, they have the same number of cylinders, and they start out their lives the same size as street engines.
A NASCAR Lesson
During the building process, however, a NASCAR engine changes radically. It grows to about 358 cubic inches, a full 20% larger than most street engines. A NASCAR engine has a radical cam profile that makes intake valves easier to open and holds them open longer. A NASCAR engine’s subsystems are all designed for high temperatures and blazing speeds.
A NASCAR engine is almost exactly like a street engine in the beginning. What makes the difference?
A heck of a lot of hard work.
The same is true of freelance writing. Most writers have some talent. Only the best, however, have what it takes to race with the best. So, how do they do it? How can you boost your writing horsepower and pull ahead of the pack? Continue Reading
Photo by Hub :).
I’m a big fan of playing tricks on my own mind to get things done. For example, I’m the type of person who sets all my clocks to run fast by a few minutes (each clock by a different increment, of course) to stay punctual.
Recently, it occurred to me that there are a few other ways I could, maybe not exactly trick my mind, but at least play with my perception to get my freelance career moving along further.
Pretend you’ve been fired
This is one for those slaving away at the 9-5 and merely dreaming about quitting to freelance full-time.
What if that safe 9-5 job vanished tomorrow? What would you do? Continue Reading
Photo by Angela7dreams.
Last month, I spoke at my alma mater about freelance writing. The request letter from the high school was helpful and precise: I was to inform the students about a “typical day.”
So I gathered several digi-photos of me at a book signing, me wrapped in a tipsy embrace with my Random House publicist, me propping my computer up against a thatch-shaded picnic table on the sugar shores of Cocoa Beach. And then I digi-ditched them. I had half an hour to address fifteen-year-old me, and she was going to hear the truth of it all.
What is my day? This is my day. Continue Reading