Freelance In 40 Days [Day 33]: Take Advantage Of Other Freelancing Resources

Posted: November 30th, 2009

Photo by Johnny (The Freelance Rant)

Photo by Johnny (The Freelance Rant)

This is Day 33 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today I’ll give you some excellent resources for freelancers.

As a freelancer, it is essential to take advantage of the resources out there to help you along in your career. The list below are some of my personal bookmarks due to their useful articles and frequent updates.

Freelance Blogs

Freelance Switch
One of the original freelance blogs with a huge archive of useful information. You can pretty much find anything you want by doing a search on their site.

Freelance Folder
Another freelance blog that has been around for a few years. Offers great articles, tutorials and information on anything freelancing.

Freelance Shack
A new kid on the block this past year but offers spot-on advice on freelancing.

oDesk Blog
Offers interesting freelance articles and advice here or their on using job boards.

Design/Dev Blogs

Smashing Magazine
An awesome blog with excellent tips and tutorials on web design and development. There’s even a good article on freelancing every once in a while.

Tuts+ Network
If there is anything you want to learn about web dev, audio, video, Photoshop… basically anything we related, then this is the place. There are plenty of free tutorials available and, for a small fee, access to source files.

Bkmacdaddy
An up and comer in the design blogs with great information on design, freelancing and social media. Don’t forget to check out his series on building your online presence on the cheap.

Spyre Studios
Learn some of the insider tips of graphic design from Jon Phillips, coincidentally the founder of Freelance Folder.

Dessine moi un objet
Though not dedicated to web design, this is a great blog to check out for their insight on design. Note that it is in French but can be translated by Google by clicking on the little English flag to the right of the page.

Writing Blogs

Freelance Writing Jobs
If you are a freelance writer, get to know this site. Great advice and how-to’s but especially for the rookie freelancer.

Men With Pens
Some witty writers who churn out great information on writing, copywriting, blogging, and of course freelancing.

Inkwell Editorial
An all-in-one for the freelance writer. Check out their 40 Days To a Successful Writing Career series (on old blog).

Inspiration

Some days when you when you need a good pick-me-up, these are the places to turn to.

Zen Habits
A great site for motivation and easy ways to simplify your work and lifestyle to enjoy life more.

Dumb Little Man
Their motto is tips for life. And good ones they do provide.

And If These Weren’t Enough…

Here you can find an exhaustive list of other freelance blogs. They will overlap, but you’ll find the complete listing in these.

Top Ten Secrets of Savvy Freelancers

Posted: November 27th, 2009

Don’t you ever want to get inside the heads of the cream of the crop of freelancers? Well, look no further. I bring you ten long-kept secrets of the trade.

10. Always remember to ask your clients if they want to “super size” their orders.

9. Take care of that messy accounting and taxes by conveniently offering payment under the table.

8. The formula for your hourly rate is to take the hourly rate of the last job you had, then add to this the hourly rate they really should have given you. Then add your age to this for good measure.

7. Get a full 8 hours of sleep every 2 – 3 days.

6. Marketing is key so partner up with a Viagra email promoter.

5. Branding is also important so be sure to use a name like BMW Studios, Cisco Creations or Pepsi Productions. They won’t notice.

4. Never ever keep a client in the dark. The dark is for freelancers to lurk with the other vampires.

3. Always require a 125% deposit before starting any project.

2. Improve upon your skills by seeing what those damn 4th graders are doing nowadays.

1. Eliminate distractions in the bud by throwing out your computer.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 32]: Networking, Or Schmoozing With Your Fellow Freelancers

Posted: November 26th, 2009

Photo by Kengo (Flickr)

Photo by Kengo (Flickr)

This is Day 32 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll learn the basics of networking to promote your freelance business and website/blog.

Freelancers are very lucky to live in a day and age where we can network with others from all over the world without even leaving our homes. And that means an opportunity to make a new client from Australia while working on a project for a client in Canada.

It all starts with getting your name out there in cyberland. By schmoozing.

But it is quite similar to moving to a new town 5,000 miles away from where you live. You start from zero and take it from there. This also takes some hard work which, unfortunately, you don’t get paid for.

The reward in the end, however, is you gain a great support base of other freelancers, exposure to your website and business and maybe even client lined up for you 8,000 miles away.

So let’s get started at zero and look at ways you can network yourself, website and business in the process.

Twitter

While Twitter is generally geared toward socializing and sharing informative links, rather than promoting your business, it is by far the easiest way to meet other freelancers who do what you do. It’s also good to generate some traffic to your blog.

Twitter is very simple to use, but it is essential to know the “rules” and general etiquette before you start tweeting away. Break the rules of etiquette and you could find yourself having to deal with a backlash from your followers.

So if you’re new to Twitter, have a look at these resources:

Commenting On Other Blogs

Its a lesser known method of generating traffic to your website, but when you leave a comment in a popular blog in your field of freelance, you can also include a link to your website with it. Those comments get read, and not just by the casual reader, but by other freelancers leaving comments.

While only a small percentage of those reading a blog post you comment on will click to your site, from your comment, there are still those few that will.

Comment enough and these few add up.

Here are a few tips when commenting on other blog posts:

  • Leave thoughtful and meaningful comments or questions that relate to the post. A quick, two-second “Hey, loved the post, nice tips” is considered blog spamming and will do more harm than good.
  • Get a gravatar, so your logo or picture will show up next to the comment in the blogs that support it (and a lot do). After signing up, use the same email address you used to sign up for the gravatar when leaving a blog comment for the gravatar to appear.
  • Try to be the first to comment on a blog post which tends to get read (and clicked on to your website) more. It helps to know the tendencies of what time bloggers post articles so you don’t have to check every minute.

Contact Other Experts In Your Field of Freelance

Don’t be afraid to send an email to other freelance bloggers for mentoring… especially the real popular ones who you may think are too busy to acknowledge you. Don’t just email any question, though. Follow these few tips when sending a contact email:

  • Prior to sending a contact email, it goes a long way to leave comments on his or her blog.
  • Say who you are and what you do. My name is Johnny and I’m a freelance web programmer and a part-time blogger.
  • Flatter. Mention that you’re a fan of his or her blog and that article on XXX really helped you out.
  • Then politely ask a question or if they have 15 minutes for a quick Skype session.

Note that some people you contact may be just too busy to help you or even answer your email.

Don’t take it as an insult. It happens, so find someone else to mentor you.

Freelancers are generally more than willing to help other freelancers. All you have to do is ask.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 31]: What On Earth Do I Write In My Blog

Posted: November 25th, 2009

Photo by OkayCityNate (Flickr)

Photo by OkayCityNate (Flickr)

This is Day 31 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today I’ll give you some ideas on how to get started in writing your blog.

So you now have your nice, shiny new portfolio website and a blog that you’ll use to promote and grow your website. Now the real question becomes what do you put in the damn blog now?

An even bigger question is will people visit my site and read what I have to say?

If you aren’t used to writing, don’t lose hope.

If you view your blog as a stage, where you have to perform by pleasing your audience with your writing, then you are already doomed from the start.

Wrong approach.

The reality is your blog is your own personal journal. You can write whatever the hell you want and not worrying about your sixth grade teacher coming around to correct your grammar. That’s the beauty of blogging… you can write how you want to even if it means sloppy sentences (though you might want to use the spell check).

After a while, writing gets easier and you develop you own flow and style. And lo and behold, a blogger is born.

In other words, just write.

Now to answer that question on what to write…

Advice

A great way to attract visitors to your blog is to offer advice on whatever your specialty is. It doesn’t necessarily mean giving away your “trade secrets” but if there is something you know how to do better than others, write about it. Take this blog for example. Did you come here seeking out some sort of advice on freelancing?

Tutorials

Do a search in Google for how to do anything and you come up with an endless list of how-to tutorials. That’s because, by instinct, we automatically look up the web whenever we want to know how to do something. And that’s the reason why online tutorials are widely popular.

There is always something we know, done our own unique way, which we can share and benefit others too.

Commentaries

One of the easiest ways to come up with a topic is to read other blogs and write a commentary on a post you feel strongly for or against. Take it a step further and take a controversial stance. Posts that draw a debate are a great way to get a reader’s attention.

One thing to note is that, since your blog is linked to your portfolio, keep commentaries free from politics, religion and negativity (i.e. arrogance, badmouthing others). These are all topics that will turn off readers and can dirty your reputation as the freelancer.

It doesn’t mean you can’t disagree on anything. Just be polite about it.

Whatever Is On Your Mind

One of the quirks of blogging is that you sometimes write a post that goes off tangent and was something you wrote in five minutes just to clear your head.

Then people read it and like it.

For example, I wrote this as only my second blog post which drew a lot of visitors and was a reason I continued doing The FR Ten.

The point is if it’s on your mind then write about it. Not only might it turn into a gem, but you also improve your ability to sit there and write without the dreaded writer’s block.

Now To Draw Those Visitors

Check back for the next tutorial where I’ll show tips on how to draw visitors to your blog without having to wait for the search engines to show mercy on you.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 30]: A Little SEO To Promote Your Website

Posted: November 24th, 2009

Photo by Luke Redmond (Flickr)

Photo by Luke Redmond (Flickr)

This is Day 30 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll have a simple lesson in search engine optimization to promote your website.

Some of you may be familiar with the old days of search engine optimization, or SEO. To give you a refresher, there was the “bag o’ tricks” that could be done to get your website on the first page of Google that included:

  • Keyword stuffing, or cramming a search phrase repeatedly in a page to where it became awkward to read.
  • Multi-Keyword stuffed pages, repeating the above using a unique search phrase for multiple pages on a website.
  • Reciprocal linking, or getting every website you can to add a link to your website while you do the same in return.

Well, times have changed and search engines have become increasingly sophisticated to do one single thing: give you exactly what you are looking for when you do a search. In other words, not keyword stuffed fluff containing a million links to irrelevant websites.

Use Your Blog  To Do Your SEO

Your own freelance website will contain at least a portfolio, an about page, a contact page and maybe a few more. Unfortunately for Google and her sisters, Yahoo and Bing, these pages alone won’t be enough.

The reason is that having only a handful of pages lacks the amount of content needed for your website to become relevant in the search engines. So what to do?

Well, that’s why we have the advantage of our blog to do the SEO work for us.

To explain, search engines simply give higher rankings to websites with a lot of good content. Search engines love blogs because new content is constantly added and, over time, a blog essentially becomes a very large website when you consider that each post is equal to one page of a website.

So by making the blog the focal point of your website and, of course, consistently writing posts, your website slowly grows in size enough to where it becomes relevant in the search engines.

Keep in mind that while your portfolio and contact pages may not be the focal point of your website, you actually gain more exposure to them through the blog since that will become the main source of traffic to your website.

A Few Simple SEO Tips

  • Register your domain for two years or more. According to WebsiteGrader.com, search engines tend to penalize websites with domains that expire within a year since most of these are considered spammy sites.
  • Use keywords in the title of your blog posts. Try Wordtracker’s free keyword tool to come up with keywords often used in search queries. Note that not every single post you create has to be specially keyworded but a majority should be.
  • Don’t bother with reciprocal links to other websites or blogs. Although search engines value other websites linking to yours, that will come naturally as you gain more visitors to your website.
  • Do, however, link to other similar websites inside the content. Also, as your blog grows, refer to and link to other posts within your blog. The links contained in your website do add to it’s relevance in the search engines.
  • Don’t worry about having to keyword the content inside of posts. If your title is keyworded and your content stays within the meaning of the title, then keywording will come naturally within the content anyway.
  • Keep writing and be patient. Visitors don’t come overnight and it could take up to a year or more before you start to notice even a page 15 ranking in the search engines. This takes time.

What Should I Write About?

The most difficult part about having a blog is easily coming up with something to write in it. In the next tutorial, I’ll give you some ideas that will fill up those posts and will generate visitors in the process. So stay tuned!

The Week In Freelance: November 20th

Posted: November 20th, 2009

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 29]: Setting Up Your Own Blog

Posted: November 17th, 2009

Photo by Laughing Squid (Flickr)

Photo by Laughing Squid (Flickr)

This is Day 29 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll see how to set up your own blog.

In Day 19, I explained several advantages of blogging as a freelancer. If you create your own website for your freelance business blogging, in addition, can offer additional advantages that can be beneficial for your business too:

  • Awareness: By blogging, you establish yourself as an expert in whatever subject you are writing about. That exposure leads to your brand awareness and could lead to new business.
  • Promotion: Blogs are one of the best ways to promote your business website in the search engines. Search engines love blogs because they are updated frequently. Put a link visibly to your business website from your blog and you can easily generate traffic to it.
  • Networking: You’ll notice on any of your favorite blogs that they link to and promote other similar blogs. This is a great way to meet other freelance bloggers while also generating traffic to your blog from theirs.

There are some caveats to these advantages however.

  • You need to blog  frequently.  By frequently, I don’t mean every day, but develop the habit to blog at least once or twice a week. Try for three times a week if time permits.
  • You need to be willing to grow in your blogging skills. For some freelancers, take writers for example, blogging comes naturally. For the majority who are not use to writing, this will be difficult at the start. The only way to improve is to keep writing. Writing will improve with time.
  • You need to be patient. The benefits of blogging will not happen right away. In fact, this will take months or even a year or more. I’ll go over methods to promote your blog in a future tutorial so stay tuned.

To start blogging, there are two ways to set this up.

Hosted Blog Platforms

Hosted blog platforms offer the advantage of being easy to set up yourself while not having to deal with the techy issues of installing it on your own server. While you can customize the look of your blog to your liking, there are limits to what can be done.

So for those who do not need all the bells and whistles and are content with a simple, easy to manage blog, then this is your best option. The best part, too, is that it is free to set up your own blog account and start writing away.

The best and most widely used free platforms are Blogger and WordPress.

Hosting Your Own Blog

Installing a blog on your own web server is the preferred way to go if you want complete control in design and maintenance. WordPress is, by far, the most widely-used software and is raved for it’s slick editor and ability to customize in virtually any way possible. Plus it’s free to download and use.

It takes a little technical savvy to install and configure WordPress but the following resources will get you started:

Afterwards, you can customize the design of your blog by finding and installing a theme that suits you. There are plenty of free themes available to choose from and, don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds.

In addition, you can kill two birds with one stone by combining your portfolio website (from Day 28) with your blog in WordPress. Smashing Magazine offers a killer tutorial on how to do this.

Blogging Resources

To help you become a better blogger, check out these websites which offer useful tips on attracting an audience, making money from blogging and even a tip here or there on how to improve your WordPress installation:

Your Homework For Today

Start your own blog by setting up an account with Blogger or WordPress or install WordPress on your server using the resources above. Remember to keep writing too. Blogging gets easy over time.

Freelance In 40 Days [Day 28]: Now Is About Time For That Website

Posted: November 16th, 2009

Photo by Tifotter (Flickr)

Photo by Tifotter (Flickr)

This is Day 28 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll see some options for creating a website for your freelance business.

Time To Get With The 21st Century

If out of the hundreds of millions of websites out there you don’t lay claim to one of them, then its about time to get out of the dark ages. This is especially true for the freelancer.

Having a website for your business is essential if you want to get your name out there and show off what you do. If a potential client visits your website, he can base his hiring decision right then and there.

But not having a website makes you an anonymous freelancer. Besides, we really have to get with the times, don’t we?

If you already have you own website for your freelance business, read on anyway. I’m going to include some useful resources for creating the best website to show yourself off as a freelancer and you may pick up a tip or two.

For the rest of you, we’ll get started. There are two ways you can go about creating a website.

Hire Help

If you have absolutely no experience in web design, have no interest in it or just don’t have the time to dabble in it (or all three) then you may have to bite the bullet and hire someone to create your website.

There are thousands of designers out there and even dozens that I know personally. I have to do the shameless promo, however, for my colleagues at Desert Elements Design in Santa Fe, New Mexico if you would like a quote (and good service!).

One big downside to hiring a designer is, of course, price. This could run hundreds of dollars to even thousands on up. If this breaks your budget, there is always the old-school method of bartering services.

If you happen to know web designers, casually mention that you’d be willing to trade services to have a web page built. If one happens to take you up on the deal, though, remember that you may not get all the bells and whistles with the web page and it may take some extra time to get built since little or no cash is exchanged.

The Do-It-Yourself  Method

For those freelancers who want to get their hands dirty and save a little dough in the process, making your own website is not an impossible task. In fact, there are many resources out there to make this as easy as possible which I’ll go over.

One important thing to consider is that a website should look professional no matter if a professional or someone who just learned HTML created it. So don’t get the idea that anything thrown together on a web page will do.

So, without further ado, we have resources to help you get started.

Hosting

You will need a web server to host your website and there are a million out there to choose from. From my years of experience as a web developer, the following are my highest recommended hosting providers due to quality of service support and pricing.

  • Lunarpages: Hosting plans from around 36 USD/year on up and is the best value out there. Recommended: The “Personal Website” plan at about 60 USD/year which includes domain name registration and phone support.
  • Fatcow: Hosting plans from 66 USD/year which includes registering your domain name.
  • Media Temple: Their Grid-Service plan at 240 USD/year is more than you’ll need for a personal website, but is a great option if you plan to host multiple websites which is included in the price.
  • DON’T USE: GoDaddy. While they are very well-known and a low cost solution, setting up your server can be best described as a complete bureaucracy. That said, don’t go anywhere near them (I finally feel better getting out a public diss on them).

HTML Editors

If you are not already familiar with Front Page or Dreamweaver then using web page software can be a daunting task. If this is the case, then CoffeeCup software is recommended to create your web pages.

CoffeeCup was designed to be easy-to-use and has extensive support and tutorials to make web page creation a breeze. Actually it was made for the “design challenged” (i.e. your parents) so if they can use it, you will with ease.

It will set you back 49 USD for the software but is well worth it if the thought of using Front Page or Dreamweaver gives you nightmares.

Website Templates

For the path of least resistance, there are website templates already made that only require a change of logo and text and, presto, you have a website.

There are many many websites which offer free templates and its recommended that you skip these over and pay a small fee for one. Free templates look cheap and you do not want your business to look cheap as a result. Here are a few places you can look for your own template:

  • Themeforest: They have nearly a thousand web templates starting from 3 USD on up each.
  • Dream Template: Also offers a wide selection and unlimited template downloads for 60 USD/year.
  • Template Monster: Has the widest selection of business templates averaging around 60 USD and up each.

Awesome Resources For Freelancers Building Their Own Website

Your Homework For Today

Time to get started building your website for your freelance business. Even if you have already one, look through the resources above and see if there is a tip or two than can improve your website.

If making your own website is not an option then consider having one made for you. This means you may have to dip into the savings a little but consider it an investment. Promoting yourself now early in your career can pay off with more exposure later on.

This obviously isn’t a one-day task, but don’t put this off either. It’s one step in the 21st century after all.

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