The Week In Freelance: April 30th

Posted: April 30th, 2010

Getting The Most Out Of Twitter When You Don’t Have The Time

Posted: April 27th, 2010

Photo by Jeff Turner (Flickr)

Photo by Jeff Turner (Flickr)

I ran into an interesting occurrence this past month. Just as I thought I was getting into the flow with Twitter, you know, by initiating conversation, getting retweeted and meeting new users, I get overloaded with work.

Staying alive on Twitter was the unfortunate casualty and all momentum I had on it was lost. The truth is that you can avoid this and stay active on Twitter without sacrificing your time working.

It only takes some time management and time-saving ways to use it. Let me show you the ways.

Just converse and retweet

There will always be days where you don’t have time to check the reader and read the blogs. No problem. There’s no law saying you absolutely have to send out links during a session.

Catch up with followers just with a simple “Hey, how are you?” or respond to the casual tweet with another one.

Then check out the links by other users and retweet the ones you like with a short comment.

While you don’t want to make sending only retweets and chats a habit, these are great ways to get a number of tweets out when time is lacking for you.

Repeat the tweets

Reduced time on Twitter means you aren’t able to tweet as much. It doesn’t mean you can’t repeat the tweets you already sent. This is even common practice among top twitter users which increases the chance your tweets get read.

To really save time on this, though, copy the tweet you are about to send, then utilize Twaitter to schedule that same tweet at a later time of the day. Double the tweets in half the time.

One note is that you should stick to your own tweets to repeat rather than retweets. You stand to lose some originality otherwise.

Break up Twitter sessions into small time slots during the day

I had made the mistake of thinking that, if I want to get anything done, I had to cut off the Twitter usage and get to work. But even on the busiest days, you can still afford to spend fifteen minutes here or there to catch up with followers and maybe hit out a few links.

This works best if you schedule these tiny blocks of time after working few hours just to break the monotony. You’ll be surprised at how much you can tweet in such short time periods.

Jump on at your “peak” times of the day

Some of you may be the chatty type (if so, you can skip this) but, if you are like me, Twitter is hard when you’re tired and have nothing to say.

There is no sense then, really, to be on Twitter when all you’ll manage is a couple of boring tweets. Save it for a time when you’re in a good mood, energetic and want to talk to people. It makes it much easier, plus tweets really do reflect your mood.

Don’t worry over missed days

When I missed a day here or there while tackling the work I had, I thought I was missing out and my followers would forget about me. In other words, I assumed my followers had an expectation of me being around consistently.

Twitter isn’t a job and you don’t have to catch up the next day with double the tweets if you happen to miss a day. We all have work, dentist appointments and trips to the hospital to take care of.

Your users will happily be there when you get back.

* * *

Have any other time-saving ways to use Twitter? Feel free to leave them in a comment below.

The Week In Freelance: April 23rd

Posted: April 23rd, 2010

The Real Costs of Freelancing

Posted: April 20th, 2010

Image by Dave P. (Flickr)

Image by Dave P. (Flickr)

You’ve seen it everywhere; freelancers are making their presence known, even during rough economic periods. Having been one for about eight years now, I’d say freelancing is the greatest job I’ve ever had. Jump right in!

Well, not so fast.

It takes some time for a freelance business to get wheels underneath it and to turn into a profitable income. What usually makes or breaks a freelancer’s goal of independence, though, are the financial aspects that have to be considered.

In short, the cost of doing business isn’t cheap and can’t be winged. And, no, we’re not talking about having to stick with that 5-year-old laptop and using your coffee table as a desk to cut costs.

These are the real deal costs that every business, freelance or not, has to deal with.

(Note: This post is primarily geared for freelancers in the U.S. )

Taxes

For freelancers the IRS want you to know about a little thing it likes to call a self-employment tax which is roughly 15% of your income. This is on top of the tax that you have to pay from your income minus expenses and deductions. The worst part is that estimated taxes have to be paid quarterly over the year or you are penalized with additional fees come time to file taxes.

Health Insurance

It’s easy to skip this one but there is always that big “What if I get sick or hurt?” you have to think about. This is often a tough choice, too, having to decide between a huge slice of your income going to pay the premiums or an astronomical slice going toward medical treatment. Here is even more reason to not let health insurance slide by.

Operating Costs

Most freelancers can minimize their expenses by working at home and over the internet. Did you know, however, that the time you put into your business that isn’t income generating (i.e. searching for clients, invoicing) are also costs to you too?

Spending too much time not generating income and less time on actual work and, well, you get the idea.

The Payment Buffer

In a perfect world, all freelance work is paid immediately upon completion. Back on earth, though, there is almost always a lag time between completing work and receiving payment. That lag time is usually a month or more.

Living month to month and desperately depending on those payments, therefore, does not become an option. Not even when starting in freelance.

So What To Do?

This shouldn’t be a discouragement to your venture into freelancing, but financial planning will do you a world of good before taking the leap.

  • Consider freelancing part-time in addition to your job. In addition to having a fallback income, you may be able to hold on to your health insurance if it applies to you.
  • Minimize living expenses and save, save, save. That savings cushion will almost always come back to save you someday.
  • Don’t forget to set aside 20% of all income received from freelancing in a separate bank account for taxes. And don’t skip payment on quarterly taxes which are due on April 15th, June 15th, September 15th, and January 15th.

If you have any other financial advice for freelancers, feel free to leave it in a comment below.

The Week In Freelance: April 16th

Posted: April 16th, 2010

The Week In Freelance: April 9th

Posted: April 9th, 2010

Review: The Blog Business Funnel by Skellie

Posted: April 8th, 2010

Photo From Skelliewag.org

Photo from Skelliewag.org

I’ve read ebooks all the time on various subjects whether freelancing, marketing or the like. Occasionally, I’ve received a nugget or two of information that has been very useful to me but, nowadays, I tend to shy away from ebooks. Even the free ones.

That’s because many ebooks are simply too general when explaining a topic. I’d prefer to see an ebook explain something in detail and give examples rather than pointing me in a direction to do a Google search.

Yep, I’ve even fallen victim to those “six figures to…” which now clutter up my hard disk. These days, I’m not an easy sell.

Then I happened to run across Skellie’s ebook, came across the sales page and read this:

In July 2008 I was studying full-time and freelancing part-time as a writer, copywriter and consultant. In that month, I earned more than $8,000 through my own Blog Business Funnel. Every single cent was earned through jobs that came through my blog.

Wow, I thought. OK, fairly credible. I forked over the 29 USD, not for the advice inside, but just to see how the hell Skellie did that.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

What intrigued me was that Skellie utilizes techniques used in online sales (read: big red headline, long sales page) and presents it as a way for freelancers to adopt without being all sales-pitchy-pushy.

Not only that, but it is written from the perspective of the everyday freelancer. No numbers, charts, formulas or the like. Just simple logic expressed in Layman’s terms with clear examples and a bit of  “pep talk” thrown in to convince you that Skellie’s techniques can be done.

Here are some key items that the ebook covers:

  • The building blocks of a blog that sells your services.
  • Writing to gain trust of your blog audience.
  • Branding yourself and creating a buzz.
  • Setting up a non-sales-pitchy sales page on your website.
  • Utilizing a business launch to generate clients.
  • Effectively using advertising and email lists to promote your services.
  • How to effectively raise your rates.

Now, the material is geared toward freelancers of any level. In my opinion, however, you will need some time freelancing under your belt and experiment a bit in blogging to really understand or get anything out of this ebook. If you’re at least at the point where you are asking yourself “How can I get better?” then this is for you.

This also may require you to step outside your normal marketing boundaries. Typically, freelancers are used to obtaining clients through job boards and referrals and are less skilled at their own sales.  While the material isn’t aimed at teaching sales, you will be using it, though in a manner freelancers can be comfortable with.

Personally, I consider myself a successful freelancer but, I admit, I’ve done very little of what was presented in the ebook. I also haven’t made $8,000 in any single month yet either. Therefore, I can guarantee that this ebook will not be collecting dust on my hard drive.

Read a preview of The Blog Business Funnel on Freelance Switch

Order the ebook here (with chapter previews)

The Freelance Rant is not in any way affiliated with The Blog Business Funnel and did not received a free copy for evaluation. The Freelance Rant also hints that there is a discount code in the first link above that he forgot to use. D’oh!

Think, Laugh and Cry

Posted: April 5th, 2010

In the time leading up to the national championship basketball game later on this evening, I happened to run into a speech by the late Jim Valvano, coach of the 1983 champion North Carolina State University, on YouTube.

To give a little primer, here was a man who was ravaged by cancer, needed assistance to the podium and gave a mind-boggling energetic speech on what is really important in life. Two months after giving the speech he passed away.

Even for the non-basketball fan, this is a must watch.

Everything about your life and freelance career will be properly put into perspective.

Our freelance work can often bog us down but keeping your head on the bigger picture, your life, dreams and goals, will help make it a more satisfying and prosperous one.