The Week In Freelance: June 22nd

Posted: June 26th, 2009

  • Deb from Freelance Writing Jobs Network has some simple ways to work smarter, not harder. This should hit home for you: “If I wanted a job that I didn’t look forward to doing every day, I’d go back to an office job. I want to get out of bed each morning, and so should you. A couple of years ago, I noticed that I procrastinated more when I was working gigs I didn’t enjoy. By taking on only projects I like, I’m not wasting a bunch of time putting off what I didn’t want to do anyway.”
  • Georgina from Web Worker Daily has the recipe for making a great remote worker. The most important ingredient has to be the passion: “You have to care about something to work remotely. You probably need to be passionate about what you do, or the temptation to slack off my soon prove too great. But if you don’t harbor a wild enthusiasm for your job, you’ll have to have a vivid appreciation of what remote working gives you: perhaps it’s more time in your day to do other things, perhaps it’s simply a life without partitions.”
  • Hopefully you use contracts whenever taking on new projects. Have you ever thought about what you will do if you have to enforce it, though? [Freelance Switch]
  • Freelance Switch also has some questions to ask yourself to find your perfect client.
  • Glen from Freelance Folder on narrowing your focus to increase your income: “If you’re an agency, this is probably a good strategy. But, if you’re working solo or you’re in a small team, sometimes it’s better to narrow your offerings. The idea behind this is to become a clear expert at one thing, rather than good at a lot of things.” Being an expert increases the perceived value of your services, and thus, your income grows too.
  • Guerrilla Freelancing: In an interview with freelancer Andy Sowers, I found a nice excerpt which nicely sums up how freelancers find their niche: “[…] Freelancing started as a pet project. When I first started, my first role was just a web designer, I did not know much html, knew no css/javascript or any programming languages at all. Over the years, I first conquered Photoshop as I started to learn HTML. Once I had HTML down I then started to practice with CSS and Javascript. Once I had mastered all of those, I began working with PHP as my first programming language, shortly after, integrated that knowledge with MySQL for database interactivity. Over the course of 3 years(just about) I had mastered all of them. The reason I started freelancing was because I was looking for a new challenge, a new skill to add to my skillset.” Learn something you want to learn and dive in… what a concept!
  • Picture your interests as ingredients sitting around your refrigerator and cupboards. What kind of recipe could you make yourself? [Escape From Cubicle Nation]
  • Its fairly normal to get into a summer slump with all the holidays, bbqs, beer and vacations. Here are some good ways to get out of them if this applies to you. [A Boundless World]
  • Celine from Web Worker Daily can show you how to stop goofing off on the internet.
  • If you blog for a side project are are new to the scene it wouldn’t hurt for you to check out this post with info on getting more traffic. Some good easy tips that I’ll be employing soon too. [Copyblogger]

Top Ten Secrets of Being The Best Freelancer of The Bunch

Posted: June 25th, 2009

Ever wonder what makes the best of the best freelancers tick? Well grab a pen and paper and take note of the ten best kept secrets of the best freelancers.

10. They are good at hogging all the good job board projects.

9. Most likely some kind of pact with the devil.

8. Nothing out of the ordinary… just avoiding sunlight, garlic and silver bullets.

7. They can miraculous extend the day to 28 hours to get a little more work in.

6. They drink strong coffee with cream and a spoon or two of speed.

5. They usually have a side income giving “Thai” massages.

4. A strong commitment to having no life outside of work.

3. They can afford to pay some sap to do their work for them.

2. They didn’t quite get the memo on the bad economy.

1. Hmmm, they actually work.

Is Boredom Hurting Your Freelance Career?

Posted: June 22nd, 2009

Photo by AliceNWondrlnd (Flickr)

Photo by AliceNWondrlnd (Flickr)

One of the greatest perks of being a freelancer, if not the best, is the ability to control the direction of our careers. After all, we are the CEO of our own business and it’s success and our happiness depends strictly on the decisions we make. Unfortunately, it is easily to lose sight of this as we become busy with our day to day work.  The tendency is to fall into a routine of working just to pay the bills without really enjoying what we do. In essence, the passion in our careers begins to wane.

If you ever had a regular job at the office, doesn’t this pattern sound familiar? In most jobs, this is fairly common since your work is controlled by a higher being, namely a supervisor, leaving you to do what someone else tells you. Many have left their jobs to become freelancers for this very reason. They see themselves as a slave to their job.

The irony for freelancers is that we tend to take for granted our own directional control and fall into a comfort zone where, if we have work and are busy, we should be happy with that. What results, though, is that the work eventually becomes monotonous if it doesn’t challenge our skills. A reality is that in order to be happy in our careers, we have to grow and evolve our skill set. A conscious decision has to made to do so, though.

This is where the dilemma arises. To evolve our career, we usually need to take time off our work to take classes or learn on our own. If we’re lucky we might be able to find a “learning” project where we can learn new skills while completing it. These opportunities don’t always knock our door, though. So usually the case is that the time we use to work and make money is sacrificed for learning new skills and opting to work is done.

So what is a freelancer to do?

Ask yourself what you want to be doing one year from now? Nearly every freelancer envisions themselves being the best in their field yet find themselves doing work that once challenged their skills, but now no longer. Think about what skills you want to aquire and what type of new challenging work you want to perform.

What do you need to do to get there?  There are a million ways to learn new skills, from taking classes to finding the experts in your field and seeking their advice  or even learning on your own with solo projects. Whatever it is, there is always a way.

Create a plan of action. There is always a path to greatness yet it takes commitment on your part to go down it. That commitment requires a plan set in stone and you to actually fulfill it. Skip a few hours of TV time week and take that class down at your local college or find one of the limitless amount of tutorials over the internet. Create your own projects utilizing these new skills for your portfolio.

To go about growing in our careers and eliminating our work boredom, we have to go that extra mile and work for it. The best freelancers go out there continually advance their skills and take on new challenges. There’s absolutely no reason, though, why you can’t be one of them.

The Week In Freelance: June 15th

Posted: June 19th, 2009

  • Mike Smith from Freelance Folder: How do you build your portfolio without doing spec work and with no clients? Its simple: create it for yourself. “The benefit to creating work you like and enjoy is that your work will be great. The quality will be awesome because it’s what you like. Not only that, but you’ll attract the type of clients where you can create even more work like that. What’s not to love about being able to do what you want, when you want? Thats one of the biggest benefits to being a freelancer, right?”
  • Laura Spencer from Freelance Folder explains how to make potential clients choose you over others: “Don’t forget a final method for discovering what makes your freelancing business unique — ask your customers. That’s right; ask your customers why they chose your freelancing business over your competition. The answer might surprise you and could point directly to what makes your freelancing business better. […] Once you determine the unique points about your freelancing business, don’t keep it to yourself. Make it part of your central business message.”
  • Karl Staib from Zen Habits with 6 techniques to staying happy during a stessful project. One in particular: “During my break I do something a little weird like take a short walk and hang from a tree branch. I find that it’s tough to worry while hanging from a beautiful tree. Plus, my creativity almost always starts flowing again. […] There are so many ways we can pull ourselves out of a stressful state if we just take a moment to be creative.”
  • One little teeny tiny word that can change your motivation. [from Goodlife Zen]
  • And if the above doesn’t work, there is always nuero-linguistic programming you can try to improve motivation.
  • Celine Rogue from Web Worker Daily: Do email newsletters have a place in freelancing? The answer is an emphatic yes. One useful purpose is to provide useful information to our clients. “Educating our clients is always a good thing. It’s not enough to just give them our work output — I have to teach them how to use it well. But this often burdens me with hours of repetitive tech support. With the use of email marketing services, I can keep clients updated with the latest industry trends, as well as what they can do to adapt.”
  • Should you sign a non-disclosure agreement? Its probably ok, but  read and understand it before signing. [from Bizzia]
  • Johnny Truent from Copyblogger has the real secret to being a better blogger: “To be popular, you need to be likable. For the most part, you’ll need to rely on your writing (whether as text, in a podcast, or on video) to do that. But luckily, learning to write personably is actually more about unlearning how to write like a stiff. “
  • Some nice charts and graphs showing that your earnings tend to increase with longer tenure and more training. [from oDesk]
  • Georgina Laidlaw from Web Worker Daily: Its generally difficult to build a rapport with clients  when you work remotely over the internet. It doesn’t mean it is not important though. “So you need to see that each point of contact is an opportunity to build rapport. I promise: This is what makes the difference between remote workers who are fun to work with and really part of the team, and remote workers you’d happily never work with again.”

Uh Oh! What To Do When Motivation Runs On Empty

Posted: June 18th, 2009

Photo by Semihundido (Flickr)

Photo by Semihundido (Flickr)

Freelance just long enough and you eventually experience cycles of ultimate productivity followed by bouts of ultimate unproductivity. Its actually quite normal and inevitably occurs at some time or another. Our lives are not lived solely as freelancers (most of us anyway) and we have other external forces that affect our work such as sudden events, our general mood and the dreaded summertime distractions.

It is at that point when these forces can affect our motivation to work enough to cause us to get off track, or in the worst case, cease it altogether. This can be despite even having projects to do and upcoming deadlines to meet. Normally this isn’t fatal to a freelance career, though, since we eventually right the ship and move on. This isn’t always an easy task.

Luckily, I’ve been through enough of these cycles to recognize them and take appropriate action to get back on track. The following are steps I’ve used with success and could be adapted in some form should the cycle hit you too.

Go Back To Your Purpose For Freelancing

We obviously became freelancers for certain reasons whether it be flexible hours or being your own boss. It’s very easy to lose sight of these reasons, however, when we’re busy as hell and when we don’t feel like working. So this is the perfect time to dust off your purpose for being a freelancer which will help you focus on the tasks ahead and fulfill that purpose.

Take it a step further and write it down and post it somewhere where you will see it everyday.

Plan

Set up a schedule over the next week of the exact hours you plan on working and the exact work you will be doing during that time. Then here comes the hardest part: commit to the schedule as if your life depended on it. A schedule acts your blueprint to getting back on track schedule but isn’t any good if it is not followed.

It is also important to take it one day at a time. Remember, you are essentially rebuilding the habit of working productively. A good habit takes three weeks to happen but gets easier day by day. A good habit can also be destroyed in a day, too, so keep the focus on your tasks for the day at hand. They eventually will all add up.

A Half Hour of Concentration

When starting your work, focus your attention on the first half hour which will set the tone for the rest of the day. If that time is spent working diligently, then it is easy to continue working that way throughout the day. Conversely, if it is spent being distracted from work, then the rest of the day could become unproductive.

Resist Distractions

It won’t matter how focused you are in your work, there will always be the temptation to give in to whatever distractions, even as small as checking the news update on CNN. The slightest distraction has a tendency to balloon into a bigger one and throw you off for the day.

It helps to think back to the times when you were most productive and worked hours straight without even a potty break. Keep this in the back of your head when resisting the need to wander off from working.

Reward Yourself

If you are finally now able to go back to working a productive day, do yourself a favor and reward it with a Guinness down at the pub or going out for a nice meal. Then reward yourself after a full week back of working hard. Trust me, it works the same as when you were a kid and got ice cream for raking up the leaves in the yard.

What’s Your Story?

Have you ever had to deal with bouts of unproductivity and how did you handle it? If you have a great method, please drop a comment below and explain. I’d love to hear your replies.

Top Ten Reasons Why Freelancers Freelance

Posted: June 17th, 2009

If you freelance, have you ever stopped and wondered why the hell you are in the first place? Yeah, me too on occasion. So here we have the top ten reasons we freelance so maybe you can find one and put it to rest:

10. You now get to put CEO title in email signatures.

9. You no longer have to sit by that same smelly dude on the bus while commuting to work.

8. You had been in an entry-level position for, oh, nine years.

7. Because freelancers have it soooooo easy. The lucky bastards.

6. You already had a water cooler at home to hang out at.

5. You prefer not to have to explain those background and credit checks done while applying to jobs.

4. You went postal at old job. Probably not wanted back.

3. You can’t get fired anymore for being on Twitter and watching porn online while working.

2. You can now go weeks on end without giving a shit about hygiene.

1. Two words: Mo’ money! What? Really? Uh… nevermind then.

Do Your Project Bids Sell Or Smell: Part 2

Posted: June 16th, 2009

Photo by Angelltsang (Flickr)

Photo by Angelltsang (Flickr)

The last post of this series went through a rundown of what makes a successful bid. Now, we’ll break things down even further with a sample bid and each essential part explained. For this sample bid we have the following project:

Project Description:

I need a talented, creative, efficient, organized, self-starting ghost-writer who can help me create web and published content for a variety of different topics.

I will provide the outline and ideas to which I’ll basically need website copy review, tweaks, and edits. Also, I will be needing a feature article for my next newsletter.

I need someone that is marketing minded not just a great writer. Someone that knows how to sell, write good ad copy, etc. I’m looking to outsource a few projects in order to find the right long-term relationship.

Subject Line

If you are sending a bid by email, it is important to catch attention with a catchy subject line. Some job boards, though not all, allow a subject line as well.

What luck! Now you have an expert ghost-writer published in successful websites!

Opening

Greetings, [or if you know a specific name Dear Xxxx,]

Thank you for the opportunity to bid on your project seeking a ghost-writer to create web content. I’ll be more than excited to take on the challenge and you will find all information relating to my skills and experience as well as my cost and time estimates contained in this project bid.

This is a fairly straightforward introduction but its good to begin with a mention of the project at hand.

Skills/Experience

I have ghost-written several ebooks including the sales copy on the websites used to promote them. A few of which are, “Search Engine Secrets You Never Learned,”  “The New Atkins is Here,” and “Million Dollar Jobs From Your Home.”

Here is what you can expect from me as your new ghost-writer:

  • Expert in writing content for ANY subject
  • Will meet all deadlines. Guaranteed or no charge.
  • Will accommodate urgent requests

Notice that this is as brief as possible, yet highlights only the experience that is relevant to the project, which is very important. Wordiness can be fatal here. Also, explain where the employer can find your portfolio and relevant samples of your work such as follows:

Please refer to the attached portfolio and work sample files.

OR

For more information of my skills and work samples please view here:

Portfolio: http://www.myname.com/portfolio

Work Sample (New Atkins is Here): http://www.myname.com/newatkins

Work Sample (Million Dollar Jobs From Your Home): http://www.myname.com/million

Cost/Time Estimate

I have a quick turnaround time for completion of sales copy which is three days for each 500 words of copy. Turnaround for newsletter articles is roughly one day for every 500 words of text. My rates are $0.50/word for search engine optimized sales copy and $0.10/word for articles.

Note that sometimes project descriptions do not have enough information for you to give an exact figure. In this case, it is beneficial to state “I can give you a ballpark estimate of $x” or a range of $x – $y. Then follow up this part with no more than three questions to the employer. More than three questions may be too much of a hassle to answer.

Contact Info and Closing

I am located in New York City and am able to begin working on this project right away. Feel free to contact me anytime at example@example.com, in MSN Messenger under screen name example or by phone at (555) 555-5555. I look forward to working with you and turning your ideas into dollar signs like I did for my previous clients.

Best regards and I look forward to working with you soon.

John Doe

Don’t forget to give your email, instant message screen name (and IM type), phone number and location. You give the appearance of being an easily accessible human being.

Now Your Turn

I hope this sample provides a useful example of what it takes to create a winning bid. If this post was helpful or if you have a particular strategy that has worked wonders for you not mentioned here, please send a comment below.

Here you can download the sample bid used in this post.

Happy bidding!

Top Ten Fastest Money Makers in Freelancing

Posted: June 11th, 2009

Freelancers are always open to making the quick cash fast so we have you some of the fastest money makers.

10. Pawn off prized laptop, desk and chair. Buy cheaper laptop, desk and chair.

9. Spend a shift or two down at the IHOP stealing tips.

8. Add a shipping charge on all project deliverables.

7. Bet it all on black. Or the Lakers to win it all in six.

6. Find a contact in Nigeria to show you how that one scheme works.

5. Fuck it. Splurge for that thing in the email I keep getting about making a six figure income doing absolutely nothing.

4. Cash in that 50 pound jar of pennies.

3. Sell soul to devil. Hope a few bucks come out of it.

2. Moonlighting as a freelancer at the No Tell Motel.

1. A real job.

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