10 Tips to Stay Motivated, Sane and Productive
Artwork by Freeparking.
Maintaining enthusiasm, productivity levels, a sense of humor and general sanity can sometimes be a challenge for career freelancers!
Here are ten lessons that every successful freelancer has learned: lessons that will help keep you on the right track in the world of going it alone.
Have you learned these lessons yet?
If you haven’t, start today!
- Failure isn’t the end of the world. Remember that you are learning what works and, by the same token, what doesn’t work: whether it’s a new software package or way of dealing with a particularly difficult client. Often we expect to be perfect at something we haven’t ever attempted before and are too hard on ourselves. Remember that each time we make a mistake, we learn something valuable. Take a risk, apply what you learned and up your chances of success next time round.
- Work your referrals. I have a client (let’s call her Anne) who has asked me to rewrite a sales presentation that her client is using to present to their client to get them to buy Anne’s company’s solution. If that was confusing, all it means is that Anne has effectively got her client to do her selling for her! Pretty impressive. Asking one of your clients to refer you to one of their contacts can be a great way to expand your client base — assuming, of course, that your client is happy with your service.
- Network, network, network. Find a networking environment that suits your personality. (I am so not a 7am power-breakfast networker so I go to a dinner-based one instead.) Then make the effort to attend regularly and to try to meet a few new people each time and exchange cards. Networking events are great for potential collaborations, making new friends, finding a mentor and hey, just getting out of the house for a while! I’m most daunted by trying to join an established conversation circle at a networking do. Simply present yourself with an open smile on your face and say ‘hi!’. It works.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. I love this one. Remember Anna in ‘The King and I’ who used to whistle a happy tune whenever she was afraid? This is the same thing. Acting like you’re confident and know what you’re doing has interesting results: one day you’ll realise you’re not faking it anymore. It will come naturally to you.
- Apply the 80:20 rule. The majority of your income probably flows from around 20% of your clients. And the majority of stress, or hassle, probably comes from a vocal minority of clients – who usually don’t pay you much! Do a client audit and see whether you should jettison any high-maintenance-but-low-revenue clients in order to spend more time and energy finding more low-maintenance-high-revenue ones.
- Have a great elevator pitch. This is the minute-long answer to ‘so what do you do?’. Prepare it and then practice it at networking events. It needs to be succinct, clear, unambiguous, interesting, engaging and memorable –- and chances are you’ll have to adapt it slightly according to who you are talking to. Think about it from the listener’s perspective. What will ‘hook’ them and pique their curiosity? What will resonate with them? I tell people I am a marketing matchmaker -– much more interesting than telling them I run an online directory of creative industry freelancers.
- It’s all about value. If you can’t demonstrate the value in what you’re offering, people won’t buy it. You need to put yourself in the client’s shoes and understand what is important to them and what their real wants are. The easiest way to find out? Ask! Then communicate this value in everything you do and in all your marketing materials.
- What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done. It’s all very well having goals and a vision, but you can’t measure them, or your progress in achieving them – they’ll always remain elusive. So if you want to get 10 new clients by the end of the year, set yourself monthly targets and action plans and establish how you’re going to achieve that goal. Simple, but crucial for success.
- Put the gems in first. In her inspiring training sessions, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Julie Lenzer Kirk (www.julielenzerkirk.com) hands out jars of coloured sand and bags containing about 20 glass ‘gems’. “Now work out how to get all the gems in the jar with the sand” she instructs. Of course, the only way to do it is to take the sand out, put the gems in first, and then pour the sand in so it fills the spaces. How often do we fill our lives up with sand and find there’s no space for the gems? Work out what the gems are in your business and personal lives and make sure you’re putting them in the jar first.
- Know which balls are glass and which are rubber. Another great analogy from Julie is that while we’re all juggling many different balls in our lives, it’s crucial to know which will bounce (rubber) and which will shatter (glass) if we drop them. These will probably change during your life so assess regularly which ‘balls’ you need to be prioritizing. Non-negotiables like quality family time, ‘date night’ with your partner or filing your tax returns on time are likely to be glass forever.
Jo Duxbury is the founder and manager of ‘marketing matchmaking’ site www.freelancentral.co.za – an online directory of ad/marketing industry freelancer portfolios in South Africa. She’s also a freelance writer and editor who loves marking up copy in red pen – and can produce a mean PowerPoint presentation.