Welcome back to another episode of the advanced freelancing Podcast. I am very excited about my guest today. I wish I had discovered her and everything that she's doing much sooner. And that's part of the reason I wanted to have her on the show! I wanted to introduce her to all of you.
Emily has been in the freelance space since 1992, which is kind of a long time in this particular business style. It has given her a really amazing life. She was a single mom. She shared that it's tough to go to work all day and then get home and be able to spend time with your child. In her case it was hard to feel like she was really there and present because she was tired.
Emily said she stumbled across freelancing. She thinks that’s what a lot of people have done unless you've been freelancing only for the last few years or so. But if you've been freelancing for 10 years or more, you most likely stumbled into it. And that's what happened with her.
After a couple of years, she realized that it was great. She can be at home. When her son needs something at school, she can go and do it. She can be here when he gets home. And she can be here when he leaves for school. She also got to travel and do some volunteer work. It just allowed her the flexibility to still have a life.
She first started in the engineering space. So she did Computer Aided drafting. She was an engineering designer as well. So it was actually quite easy. And in that particular space, the hardest part was that computers are really, really expensive. The software was really expensive. But it didn't take too long before you could afford that. It did allow her a lot of flexibility. So being in that civil environmental space, she got to do what she loved. And she gets to migrate into other careers.
Emily shared that she also sees this in a lot of freelance business owners, were after about five or 10 years of doing a specific task skill, they kind of want to move on. Not everybody, but a lot. She thinks it's a nature of who we are as humans. And she thinks that when you work for somebody, you get that opportunity. Usually after about three to five years, you get an opportunity to advance into or move to a different group within a company. And that's sort of a missing piece and freelancing unless you make it yourself.
A lot of them are writers, but it happens across the board. As Emily mentioned, you do something and you learn everything there is to know about it. Then, you take it about as far as it can go as a freelancer. And then you kind of go, “Okay, what next? Maybe I don't want to write all day. And maybe I don't want to work for this particular group of clients anymore.” So people are wondering what the next real challenge? Because it's not necessarily that you're moving on from something because it's unsuccessful. In a lot of cases, it's actually that it's been very successful. But there's that other missing piece component to it.
Emily shared that this also happened by accident. After a couple years, after she moved to Austin, she was approached by a friend/colleague to create a group on Facebook called Austin Freelance Gigs. And that's what they ended up calling it. She really enjoyed the concept of helping other fellow freelance peers connect to work.
You can't do everything that comes to comes to you either. Because you don't have the skill or the time, or the clients not a good match. There's tons of reasons why work continually gets passed off to someone else, or passed up. So if you had a network of people that you trusted, knew well, and you knew that when you pass them off the client was going to be treated well, then you may even work out a deal where you know you charge a finder's fee for making the introduction. That happens a lot. Then it's so much easier for all of us to get the work that we really love to do.
Emily shared that this is a little off topic, but that's still where everything started. When they started that group, it grew really fast. So to Emily, she was expecting to start the group and in about three or four months, she’d have 25 people. And she had 25 people by lunch. By the end of that week, they had 300 people. And in a few months, they had almost 1000 people. And what she loved about the group was not only that she got to really play in that space that felt like it was going to be wonderful, and sure enough was by helping freelance business owners find work and connect to each other, but they started to ask each other really awesome questions and have conversations about their business. They asked things like how to run it.
And it turns out, they really do. When we share those hardships, those ways that we made it through the other side of a challenge, it helps the next person get there faster. Even if they only borrow bits and pieces of it.
There's so much to be gained from other people a lot of times. Some of the best gems that we take away and implement in our own lives or businesses are from other people. Whether it's just their unique perspective and their fresh set of eyes on the problem that we're having or it's something that they've been through in their own experience where they can provide some insight that helps you navigate that on your own.
Emily said that there was sort of the inspiration for everything else that she did. So there was one night, it was actually July 13, and she vaguely remembers it. She was sitting in her little chair that I sit in and she was working. She was watching and thread. It was a whole bunch of people in the group commenting back and forth about a question that someone had answered. And she loved it. So she just wanted to do this with other people in person.
She loves doing it online. But she wants to be face to face with a group of people that aren't telling me to go get a job. And she wants to be in front of people that aren't dissing her for the life she’s living or the way she’s running her business. They are in it with her. And her experience adds value to them and their experiences add value to her.
She wanted to go to a freelance conference. So she went online and started looking everywhere. And it didn't exist in any country. This blew her mind. So she created one.
Emily shared that they just concluded their fifth year. I asked if it is always in the same location or if they move around. Emily shared that it has always been an Austin the first five years. And they have made the decision to start moving to other cities. She thinks that the plan right now. The plan is that they’ll spend the next four years going to other cities, making it a little bit more accessible to other people as well. And then they’ll probably come back to Austin for those five year reunion kind of things.
So at the freelance conference, who is it really for? What person would need to attend that? Do you have to be at a certain point in your business to go? Or is it designed to bring together freelancers from different experiences and backgrounds?
It started out with whoever wants to come, comes. It was literally an idea. And about 100 days later, they had the first one and they had 92 people show up. And at the end of it, Emily was like, “This was great. How much fun was that? And everybody wanted to know when the next one was.
That’s when Emily realized that this is going to be a thing. So she’s definitely had to feel her way through this because she wasn't a conference owner. Before she got out of doing website freelancing, you know, solely freelancing, she was doing website design work and SEO work. So she was really learning as she went along. And she admits that she kind of still is learning as she’s going.
So now the process inside of a freelance conference is for all of those people to be able to attend and get what they need out of it to get to the next level. They want content that allows people that are thinking about freelancing, and maybe a little scared to do it, to be able to connect with people that are already successful. And with people that are semi successful and working their way up to being successful. They want to show them that it can be done.
Emily said that we're all just humans like you. And we did it. You can do it and you're not in it alone. And the people that are further along, like we were talking about earlier, that are making more money already, or they've added products to their company, things like that to diversify some of their income. They have valuable lessons for those people that are striving to be where they are. And they have lessons and challenges that they need to move past to get to their next level.
So the process now is to find all those different layers and be able to pull everybody together so they can learn from each other where they are. As well as have breakouts that allows people to go and learn more specific skills at the level that they're at and the level they're trying to get to.
We need to connect with others who understand what we do. Because a lot of us probably still have family members that don't really understand what we do. They know that it's something online. They might not even be convinced that it's stable or real. But it's very helpful to network with other freelancers who get it. They get those challenges you have around marketing or client management or invoicing and those types of things. But it's also hard to balance taking time out of your business to go to a conference.
Emily said that she spends her entire year watching people like me, watching people that are solving problems in the freelance space and finding those solutions and proving out those solutions. And then she invites them in to be speakers. So that way, not just anybody is on the stage. It's very much curated.
And for the workshops, she does the same thing. So the thing she loves about still having Austin freelance gigs here in Austin is that they have over 10,000 people in that group. And so it's a really great space to watch the questions that are being answered. So she can see if there's any pivoting happening in what freelance business owners are struggling with to make sure that maybe she need to bring that content into these workshops.
So they make sure that they have technology workshops too. Emily loves those because one of the other things freelance business owners don't tend to have is the time to do is research new technology. And how they could be using it in their business. Why they should be using it in their business. So they invite some of those companies to come in and do hands on workshops, versus just a demo. Because demos always work perfectly. And then we research and make sure that they try to create a really diverse set of workshops and breakout sessions.
And in each of those, Emily said that she would say there's about three primary levels or categories that people move through in a freelance business. You're either just starting or trying to start. Or you're in this middle area where you got the starting down, and you're really trying to make it simpler or more efficient and make more money without putting more time in. And then you have the next level of people where they've figured out even some of the efficiencies, how to run their business, and they're now looking for an increase way to increase income and make it even more efficient and effective. They want to be able to spend more time with family or travel. So those are the levels of workshops that they’re looking for.
All of you freelancers who want to dip your toe into coaching or doing public speaking, a lot of times you just have to be proactive and you have to ask and you have to seek out these kinds of opportunities where you can share your expertise with a group of other people. And what I love with what Emily is doing at the conference is that freelancing has become more in demand.
Which on the one hand is great because a lot of us have plenty of work to do. And it's really enjoyable and more and more companies are embracing freelancing as a way to outsource their work and get things done.
The downside of that is that it's getting more competitive. And one of the things that I think is going to be important for freelancers, in the next five to 10 years, is to be looking at what trends are coming and what new software skills do. I need to pick up what trends are happening in online marketing and communications that I need to be aware of. And if you're like me, at the end of the day, you don't want to sit at your computer anymore and watch a tutorial or a demo or try to pick up an online course about that newest software thing.
And you can network with other people. You're learning new things. And you're trying out software. You're being able to ask the software creators or people who are updating it, direct questions about how to use it. Then you come home with tools that can help you up level in your business and stay competitive. I think that when you choose the right conferences to go to, that three or four days or however long you're there is not lost time in your business. You often can get so many things done that can help your business move forward in huge ways in the future.
I'm so excited to be able to showcase a little bit more about what Emily is doing with this conference. Because like she said, there really isn't anyone out there that's doing this. We have our little hubs in our cities, or we have our online Facebook groups of people that we interact with who get freelancing. But being able to do that in person is so rare. And it's so exciting to see that that's changing.
Emily said that answer is yes and no. She says yes, because the dates that she chose were September 13 14th, and 15th. But se just found out that those are also the dates for a really big event, Startup Week, in Denver. So that's not something that she wants to make people have to choose one or the other. So now she’s reevaluating those dates.
She said that you have to pay attention to other things that are happening, not only in that particular market, but things that are happening. we get into a lot of religious holidays that time of the year. So she really has to pay attention to those as well. So the dates are still coming. But it will be in Denver or Denver/Boulder area.
She’s looking at both of those cities, because there's so many things she wants to start doing. She wants to be able to start incorporating activities that people can do outside. And the Denver/Boulder area has a lot of those options. So she just wants to make sure that they take advantage of that.
She wants it to be so that we people come to the conference, it's more than just sitting at a table or in a chair listening to people talk. She shared that what's interesting is that people tend to buy the ticket based on the sessions. Which she gets because she would make the same deduction. They look at the schedule ask if this will bring money to them. It's an absolutely accurate way to do it. But it's not the reason they come back.
The reason they come back is because of the people that they met. You're just talking about the lessons they learned from the people that they met. And they're just that relationship. They can't wait to get back together and see each other because they typically only see each other once a year. And that is so much fun to watch.
It might not be the place that you expected necessarily, but it's always interesting to be able to meet other people. And there's so much of that conversation that you can just skip over when we normally meet someone who has a traditional job or doesn't really understand freelance. We probably spend 10 to 15 minutes just trying to explain what it is we do and how we do it and why we do it.
So it’s nice when you could just sort of jump to like, “Okay, what is it that you do? Oh, cool. Do you do it part time or full time? Are you doing is this this alongside a full time job?” It's just great to be able to connect with other people who instantly understand you and where you're at. They might even be able to provide you with some really good feedback or insight about what's potentially next for you as well.
Emily shared that they always make sure that they have a co working space area. They get it! They know you're running a business. Sometimes you do just need to go, “Yes, I'm here. I'm able to make it. But I had to take this conference call. I really needed to make that online meeting happen.” So they can go to a space that's separate and make those things happen and still be able to take advantage of the conference.
So everyone who's listening, think about that as you're making your 2020 plans of when are you going to step away from your business. What are going to be the professional conferences or events that you attend to help you level up? This is definitely one that you want to keep on your radar.
Where can people go to Learn more information about you and about the conference?
Emily share that it’s a really, really difficult one, freelanceconference.com.
I love it. I can't even buy my own married or maiden name .com. So I always appreciate when people are able to have a simple website because not all of us are able to snag that before some domain person wants to charge you 10 grand. for whatever
I just want to thank Emily so much for the opportunity to speak with her and hear a little bit more about what she has done to build Freelance Conference up to where it is now and where it's headed in the future. And freelancers, I often encourage this, you always hear from me when I come back from a conference about the things I've been able to take away from it, and how valuable it is. So even if you're only able to attend one or two conferences a year be really choosy about what you go to. But you can get so much out of it and having that network of people that you can talk to during and after the conference is instrumental so.
It's time for another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. Now this episode might be a little shorter than usual. But that's because I'm sharing some news that I didn't have planned out in my content calendar. So, I am a big fan of batching. And I always brainstorm all my ideas for what goes into the podcast, usually at least several weeks or even months in advance.
So I had all of my episodes plotted through the end of 2019. But I am making a deviation from that. I think, sometimes being flexible with your own plans is very important so that you can capitalize on things that are very timely.
If you have not heard through my social channels, or through my email list, I recently signed a two book contract with Entrepreneur Press to publish my next two business books. I am so excited about this opportunity. And I also just want to, again, thank all of the readers and listeners in my audience who bought a copy of my first book, “How to Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business”.
Now, I'm not just sharing this two book deal. But a couple of days after signing that contract, I was at the igniting souls conference in Columbus, Ohio. It was an amazing conference. It's the best business community that I have found for really supportive people who are at very similar stages in their business building. It is run by an incredible guy named Kary Oberbrunner.
I thought at the time it was a German woman. And I was like, “Well, what would this German woman know anything about publishing in the United States?” So funny story, I came across Kary a couple years later. And one of the reasons that I connected to this conference is because one of the books that just sold, which is tentatively titled “The Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap”, did not sell the first time around. Many of you know that that was part of my publishing story. That was the book I wrote the proposal for. It's what I worked on with my agent. It's very much the book that I wanted to publish.
I was very intentional in the way that I wrote, marketed, and promoted “How to Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business”, because I wanted that book to be the door opener for future book deals. So I wanted to be able to show that I could hustle and that there was a market for freelancing. One of the publishers that rejected “The Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap” mentioned that they thought that freelancing was a fad. So I feel like now more people are seeing that that is not true and that freelancing is here to stay. All of the statistics point towards more and more people becoming freelancers.
The difference between self publishing and working with somebody who's sort of a hybrid publisher like Kary’s program, called author Academy, is most people who Self Publish don't ask the important questions about marketing until after the fact. Marketing is, in my opinion, more important than the content of your book. You can have the most amazing book out there. But if you don't know how to market it, no one will buy it. No one will hear about it.
It really makes me sad every time I see someone in a Facebook group say that they published their book three months ago, only sold three copies, and want to know who they can market it now. That is the wrong time to be asking that question. Right now, the tentatively titled “Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap” will come out in about one year, somewhere in October 2020.
But I'm building my marketing plan now. I'm starting my brainstorming for marketing now. I'm capitalizing and analyzing what I did well the first time and where I can do better the second time to increase my brand awareness between now and then. That involves multiple different facets media like growing my blog, growing my facebook group, increasing awareness of my podcast, etc. So marketing has to be done and thought about before you launch.
They teach you how to market your book. And they teach you how to ask for endorsements for your book. They teach you how to write the back cover and the advertising copy that goes up on Amazon. Honestly, they just teach you all that stuff.
Sure, I could convert a Word document into Kindle friendly file today and upload it to Amazon. But that doesn't mean it will sell if I have not done any work beyond that. If I have not leveraged my network and my platform, I am not going to get anything out of it.
I'm so impressed with this program. It is a program that you pay for, but I'm just so blown away by what you get with it. You get 18 months of coaching. They publish your book. The revenues from the book are yours. So that means your royalties are yours. They teach you all about how to do an audio book version and how to do the Ebook version. And they teach you how to have a printed copy and how to promote yourself in your local area to do book signings. It's an incredible, incredible program.
I would say in the top three things that I've invested in, Author Academy Elite has been worth it. There's been a lot of things that have not been worth it. A lot of people that were not a match for me. Someone sent me a $3,000 proposal to do a book marketing plan for my book. That's less than what you pay to publish your book and get the coaching and everything with Kerry's team. But nothing was guaranteed with it. And I had no lifeline to ask for help. That was just doing one piece of the puzzle, not publishing the book.
You can do books with them and it's like a $300 investment per book. What they do with the general program is they help you with things like your book cover. They guarantee certain things that you're going to get as part of the program. But you can publish additional books through their publishing house, very affordably, so much better.
I see publishing companies every day. They're pitching me on LinkedIn. Oh, it's $10,000 and we’ll publish your book. Someone the other day offered me a chapter in their book to pay $750. I really wanted a system because I intended to publish the “Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap” with Author Academy Elite.
So when this book deal came about that Entrepreneur Press” was interested in buying two books, including the one we'd already pitched the first time around, I contacted Author Academy to talk to them.
I told them that I've got two to three other books in the business and nonfiction space I really want to write. And I asked them if we can swap one of them in because I'd already had the Six Figure Freelancing Roadmap approved.
It’s going to be all about how to become a VA, why VA is different from other freelancing, and the types of skills you need to know as a virtual assistant. I will be publishing that hopefully next May or June with Author Academy Elite. It will be self published. So stay tuned for that.
And then I'm publishing a six figure freelancing guide. We don't quite have a title yet in 2020 with Entrepreneur Press, And in 2021, a “how to” guide on website copywriting.
So that was a long tangent from my original point, which was that I was really shocked and so honored to receive the Author Academy Elite 2019 Award for Best in Business.
They announced the Top 10 in August. And my book made the Top 10! I shared this on my social media. And I did not prepare an acceptance because the other nine books I was up against, were great books. I thought that there's no way that I was going to win against these people. So I'm just going to go and enjoy the Author Academy Awards and soak in the atmosphere.
I'm there at the conference anyways, so honored to be a Top 10 finalist, and what a huge blessing it was to win. I was totally shocked when they called my name. I mean, I did not have a speech prepared. And I only listened to the video of what I said a couple of days later. I don't like to be unprepared. I always like to have notes to have some idea of what I'm going to say. I speak well off the cuff when I know that topic really well. But I've never been honored like that for a book before. So I got to go on stage say thank you and accept the award.
I totally underestimated how powerful this was going to be for my platform. I sold 26 copies of my book at that conference. Just two people who found me during bathroom breaks in the conference, right? They would seek me out and pro tip here.
When I go to conferences, I always try to wear the same color all weekend or for the whole event. So it's usually royal blue or red because they're very noticeable power colors. So I was wearing royal blue as much as I could that weekend so that it was easy for people to find me and it really worked. So my book was not available for sale in the conference bookstore. Lots of people asked if it was there and it was not. And then they came and found me personally. So I'm just super excited to be sharing all of this news with you.
I am building my advanced reader team. My advanced reader team is going to be a small group. I'm aiming for like 20 to 25 people max. You're going to be the early readers on my work and provide feedback. So you're going to get first dibs at having your snippets featured in the book.
So in the six figure freelancing roadmap, I'm going to have case studies from successful six figure freelancers. The advanced reader team is going to be the first people that I go to with that opportunity. So it’s a great way to have your story and your business promoted. That's potential exposure for you to be found by other people who might follow you as a freelancer or hire you as a freelancer.
Advanced readers will also receive one free, signed copy that will come to you three to four weeks in advance of the actual drop date of the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other platforms. That is free to you. I will mail that personally to you to thank you for being a part of the launch team. The advanced reader team will you know,
As an advanced reader, I ask that you participate in whatever way you can to provide feedback and ideas and to share the books on social as the launch date and sale dates are coming closer. Leaving reviews on the book is a huge help on Amazon, Goodreads, and other platforms. That's very important.
So if you want to be a part of that advanced reader team there is a Google Form application. If you were already on my launch team for the first book, you're already in the Facebook group. So you would actually have to opt out of the Facebook group to not be part of my advanced reader team. But I really would like you to consider staying on if you got something out of it.
You are literally going to get a bird's eye view of what it takes to write, edit, and publish a book. You will learn how you build a marketing plan and how long it takes to build these things in advance. So that's a really cool way for you to learn more about it if you have been thinking about writing a book or you just want to know what it looks like in 2020 and beyond to write a book like that and for it go out live for the masses.
So I really want to encourage you to consider signing up. Just fill out the form in the link below. I will be contacting my launch team coming up. It is just a really cool opportunity. I am so thankful for all of you who were on my previous launch team. You were instrumental in helping me to be able to get additional book deals.
But this is really going to be an increasing part of my business. I’m going to be publishing, representing the freelance community, and building a bigger community of freelancers. Promoting the freelance revolution as what it is.
I wish I had more resources and tools when I got started. And I am now building those resources. I'm just so happy to get that opportunity to represent all of you. So I look forward to seeing you, hopefully on my launch team. And sharing the podcast with others also helps. If you leave a review on iTunes it helps more freelancers find this great information.
So thanks for tuning in for another episode. I know it's been a quick one. As always, you can send your questions to the podcast email@example.com. I will receive those emails. I'm also shifting to a new email for the podcast, which is firstname.lastname@example.org. So if you have questions, ideas for future topics, something I mentioned on the show doesn't make sense, or you need more information, please shoot me an email. Thanks again for being part of my tribe and helping support the freelance revolution.
I’m coming to you today with another guest who's going to share her great insight into how to make freelancing work for you. She’s also going to share when to decide that maybe it's not the right fit, and you want to scale it down or work your freelance business in a different way.
As an educator, she's worked with students of all ages in New Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, and China. As a performer, she's also studied 12 different Asian theatre and dance forms. And in addition to working full time in arts administration at an art center, she teaches part time at the college level and produces and co-host of the podcast, Biracial Unicorns. It is a podcast about race, gender, and pop culture.
We're going to be talking about things that are a little bit off the beaten path for where a lot of the traditional freelance conversations go. Which is, you're working it as a side hustle to bring it into a full-time gig. You’re potentially using it to grow an even bigger and bigger freelance business.
She shared that she was an accidental freelancer. She feels like she’s heard me say that about myself. She didn't have the intention to freelance after she went to graduate school. She went to graduate school with the intention of becoming a college professor. And that turned out to be a lot more difficult than she first thought.
So she knew that she wanted to teach. And because her degrees happened to be in the arts... Well, there are a lot of very tangible transferable skills. But a lot of businesses don't see it that way. So it wasn't to fall into a traditional sort of job.
So she knew she wanted to work in the arts. And she knew she wanted to teach. So she just accidentally fell into doing contract work in that way. She was following through with any sort of opportunity and putting herself out there so that I could be in the classroom or be doing arts as a job.
So it started as kind of a way to support adjunct teaching. As far as college goes, she was teaching just a couple of classes a semester in the college setting. She started to pick up more and more other teaching jobs. Part of it was through theatre company that she was a part of. And then part of it was through just other contacts she had made in the art world.
I asked Dani, “Was most of your freelancing was in teaching positions? Or were you doing different types of services for your clients?”
For the most part, it was teaching. The nature of theatre tends to be a lot of independent contract work as well. So while most of it was teaching, some of it was actually stage managing or performing in the theater world as well.
The thing that Dani loves the most about freelancing was the freedom and flexibility to choose what she was doing. And she could turn down gigs that did not align with her values, didn't align with her schedule, or weren't interesting to her. So she really enjoyed that aspect. And she enjoyed the aspect of creating her own schedule. All of that was, was really freeing and really
just gratifying to her.
But ultimately, it seems like that wasn't something that Dani wanted to stick with forever. Which is kind of the nature of a lot of not just business, but life for creatives too. We often discover along the way what we do and don't like or pick up some new passion and follow that thread.
Dani shared that for her it was a lot of burnout. So she was working a lot and in a lot of different places. That’s is part of the nature of freelancing. She felt like she was spending a lot of time driving from gig to gig. And just constantly on the go. It was exhausting.
For her, the move into a full time position meant having the stability of working in one place. It meant having the stability of having those set hours. And she thinks this is true for a lot of creatives. And for a lot of freelancers.
It's very difficult when you're starting out to figure out those boundaries. She shared that she was more than happy to constantly be working. And for her that just was not sustainable. She was having a hard time figuring out where she was going to draw those boundaries with things like when was she not working? When was she working?” So that was really weighing on her.
Then a lot of it was the boring life things like needing health insurance and figuring out those those steps for myself. And while it is possible through freelance work, it seemed very difficult for her. And she had to evaluate if this was the type of work that she wanted to continue doing, or if she wanted to shift into something else.
Dani shared that it was more the ladder in her case. She had reached the point where she was acknowledging her burnout and that she needed to do something else. And she was about to take some steps back. She had set aside some time and savings to kind of pull back on what she was doing come the fall of that year.
And she set that space with the intention of job hunting. Perhaps reconsidering applying for full-time professor jobs out of state. She wasn't sure if she wanted to move away from where she was. But she set that space to search and decide.
Right before she was about to transition into that space, a job kind of popped up. It was a full-time job with an organization she had been contracting with before. So she knew that the organization matched a lot of her personal values and was a good place to work. She knew a lot of people who were already in that organization, not well, but well enough to know that it seemed like a great place to work and it was in arts education.
But through the administration side. So it was something a little different than she had done previously. But because she had been doing a lot of freelance individual work she had the skills that they were looking for. She also had the practical experience of being on the ground doing the teaching, working as an artist, and having knowledge of both sides of it. So it was kind of an ideal situation that accidentally happened as well.
Well, that's actually very interesting, because through your freelance experience, even though you realized that that wasn't a path you wanted to continue down, you still had this introduction to this company and the people there to where you knew what some of the job would look like.
Because one of the challenges of freelancing that I think anyone who's done it can experience is the fact that it can overtake all day every day. And what tends to get crowded out is this idea of that intentional space setting to think about working on your business or even taking the step back to say, “Is this what I want to be doing?”
When your skills are in demand, it is very easy to fill your day with work for clients. Sometimes I've even seen freelancers who have waiting lists. They're turning down other clients, because they're so busy. And I think it was very smart that Dani’s first step was not along the lines of firing all her clients today. Nor did she have the mindset of taking whatever job pops up.
She very intentionally said, “I'm going to put some space in here to figure out what this is going to look like because I don't necessarily know what my next step is.” And I feel that it's so hard for a lot of freelancers to do that just because of the way we work. We tend to be thinking about other people's businesses. Or the projects we're working on. And not recognizing how it's affecting us.
Prior to doing that your step, Dani recognized that she was in, at least, the beginning stages of burnout. I asked her if she could speak a little bit about that to help other freelancers who might not realize that there are some subtle signs popping up that they might be burning out.
Dani thinks, for her, and probably for a lot of people who work in freelance, we go down that path because it's the work that we want to do. It's the work that we value. And it's a passion! It's very hard to be motivated to work for yourself or to take on different clients nad different small side jobs, unless it's something you're passionate about.
And so, for her, the early signs of burnout were she was unhappy. And she did not see the same level of passion and commitment to the work that she had when she was beginning. She was very unhappy and very tired. She started to dread having to work. Instead of it feeling like something that was feeding her, it felt like she was just feeding the work. So she thinks those were the early signs for me.
And then actual physical exhaustion was a part of it as well. Like she mentioned before, she thinks a lot of it, for her, was the lack of very firm boundaries. So if she could go back, she thinks that would be something that she would work on and establish early on. And she thinks with those boundaries, it helps prevent burnout. But she thinks you're also more likely to catch the burnout before it happens.
But it is one of the most important things that a lot of freelancers don't realize how much they're hurting themselves and their business by not having good boundaries. Because a lot of us come from employee-employer situations. Or we're working with companies that don't realize they need to or have to treat freelancers differently.
It can feel very much like a power move to put those boundaries down with a client. But it's very, very important for your own mental health. And I love that Dani acknowledges some of the signs of what that looks like for her. Because there's almost a sense of grief when you start to realize that this thing you built is great, but then it's physically exhausting you. And you’re not even feeling lit up by it. Yes, it's bringing in money. And clients are relatively happy, but it's having these other negative impacts on me.
Dani shared that it’s a little bit of both. Like she mentioned before, she had already started taking steps back when this job opportunity arose. So she had already created some space. When she started at this new job, in this new position, she as still honoring the commitments she had already made.
And she made it pretty clear when she accepted the position that it was important to her to be able to have the space to honor those commitments and follow through on the things she had already said she was going to do. Which she doesn’t know why she found it surprising, but she did find it very surprising that the company loved that about her. They told her that's one of the reasons we hired her.
She did have a few other teaching gigs lined up, which I followed through and completed. Luckily for her, within her work, everything was very structured on a calendar and an academic calendar. So she knew when those things would end. She also knew that because it was work that she was passionate about that she wasn't able to give it up completely.
And so through conversations with the college she was contracting with and her new employers, she was able to see how much space she could have. She’s now in my third year in this position. And she has continued to do some side contract work and some teaching at the college level while she has been there. So it's continuing to take that step back and see what the space was that allowed it.
What she also really liked about it was that she was able to build in more space for other projects that she wanted to do that weren't necessarily completely under the umbrella of what she was doing before. So it was nice to have that security of a full time job, but be able to continue a little bit of the work that she was really passionate about, It was also nice to be able to create some space for new things. Because she thinks this is true for a lot of creatives and freelancers, we're always wanting to learn new things to improve ourselves to find something that will satisfy us. So she loves that she has that space in my schedule now that she’s able to try new things as well.
You do them over and over again. But it really can crowd out the opportunity to learn new things or even just pick something up that's a hobby. I see a lot of people get stuck in this mindset of wondering if something is going to make them money. Not everything you do has to make you money, or has to be part of your business. It can be if you want, but you can also just pick up a hobby or follow a thread to see how much you're interested in it. I think that that's a really common pitfall that people fall into.
She shared that she feels like she has drawn a much stronger line. It used to be where she would pretty much accept anything that she was remotely interested in. And now knowing that she has much more limited time to accommodate those things, she has to be a lot more intentional.
So for her that means she knows that she can only accept one or two things in a given amount of time. She still thinks very much in the semester schedule. So she can only take one or two things every semester. And having that knowledge and that line makes her evaluate what it is that she enjoys the most. Some of the things that she considers are:
And it's nice because she doesn’t necessarily have to think about long term with her freelance work. Now, she only has to think about what's going to serve her in this amount of time. And she doesn’t have to necessarily worry about building anything or expanding anything.
One challenge that I know a lot of freelancers who are coming out, from the other direction where they have the full time job first and they're just starting to freelance, they always want to know if they need to tell their employer. Or if they need to tell their freelance clients that they also have a full time job and these are the parameters under which it does or doesn't affect what they are doing for them.
Dani shared that she thinks it's a case by case. She has had semesters where she was very upfront with not only the college she was working with, or the people she was contracting with, but also with the students who she was teaching about her schedule. This is her life. And this is when she’s available and when she’s not available.
She’s also had times where she doesn’t do that. The other thing she finds that it doesn't make a huge difference is what she communicates to other people, it's really kind of drawing the line for herself. That makes the bigger difference. So she thinks in both cases the outcome was about the same.
She feels as though she has moved into more of not necessarily having to disclose just because she doesn't understand necessarily what she was getting out of disclosing. She doesn’t know if she was looking for people to understand that boundary, but she feels like you can establish that boundary without having to justify why.
I really found that a lot of times when I was working full time that it just didn’t really affect it. And I didn't see how it affected my boss at all. I didn't see how it affected my freelance clients either. We could either do a call at noon when I was on a lunch break or after hours. We could even just discuss it over email.
So I agree with you that it's a case by case thing. I don't think you owe it to anyone unless there's going to be some potential where they're like, “Oh, we need you to be available at 3 pm every Tuesday.” That’s when you have to tell them that you might not be the person for them because you’re working at that time.
But I agree that I think a lot of times it's about our own boundaries. You have to ask yourself, “Okay, how am I going to have firm boundaries with both these things so that I don't get overwhelmed or don't shortchange anyone in the process?”
I think that's important for everyone listening to remember that you don't have to apply a formula from anyone and try to force that into fitting into your life. You get to decide to what extent you're freelancing or you're not or you have a full time job or you work remotely or you're volunteering. So you get to decide what that looks like.
And you can always change it too. If it's no longer suiting you, for any reason, you can always adapt and change it. So never feel like you're a prisoner to your circumstances. Because you always have the power to adapt.
And that's something I think we've talked about a lot in this episode is tuning into those signals in yourself know this isn't working. How do I make that decision? How do I wind things down and move forward in a step that's positive?
The best place to learn about her is through her podcast, which is one of those lovely things that has been able to rise because I've had that extra space in my life and is able to fulfill me in a different way. So, she co hosts and produces a podcast called Biracial Unicorns. They're available on all the podcasting platforms.
This was such a great episode full of useful information. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.
So if you're listening to this episode, know that I have recorded several podcast episodes, at the same time. All with the content previously outlined that I did in another work session of bashing work. So I really do practice what I preach when it comes to bashing your work and splitting things up. It is so much easier for me to record two or three podcast episodes at a time. And it definitely makes it easier on everyone else when producing them. So think about how that concept of batch work could play into your freelance business as well.
If you have followed my story for a long time, or listen to this podcast, then you know that I have been freelancing full time since the summer of 2013. So that is a full six years of working full time. Many of those years I was putting in a lot of hours, especially at the beginning to get things off the ground.
And it's part of the reason that I've been incorporating a couple different interviews with people who have taken less traditional freelance paths into the mix with some of these podcast episodes. Because I'm seeing it not just with me, but with many of my private coaching clients as well.
For some of them, freelancing full time is the dream like this is what they've worked for. They love it. And they're happy to do it. But for others, it's interesting because they will start coaching with me for the purpose of scaling their freelance business and then the process of working together, realized that's not actually what they want. At least anymore. For some of them, that means intentionally scaling back their freelance business altogether. And that can be a little bit surprising for people who have put in so much effort to build up a freelance side hustle, potentially even leaving their day job.
Because there's different seasons in life. There are seasons in life where you may be focused on other things like taking care of an elderly parent, or perhaps you're a new parent yourself. And the focus of your life has really shifted from that all hustle, all-in mentality towards being a new parent. Or maybe you've just moved in with your significant other or whatever it might be.
I honestly can speak to that from experience. Because, for me, I've loved being a freelancer. I've loved doing it full time. And I just hit a point when I wasn't sure that that was fit for me anymore. I've taken a lot of care and a lot of work to adjust my business in light of that.
So I started seeing the signs that it was time to change. In early 2019, I was really set up for a big year freelance wise. I took on two enormous freelance contracts. I was like, “This is easily going to be my biggest year yet with freelancing.” And I did those for about three months.
Then both of those projects came to an end for for different reasons. None of those reasons were negative or anything. but I was relieved. Normally when I lose a contract or a client, I'm like, “Oh, I have to go replace this client. I've got to go find another situation that's going to fill this time.” I started feeling relief at letting go some of those projects and intentionally not replacing them.
So those two contracts ending around the May time period, and I was getting really close to my book launch to we were getting ready to move on. I really started to feel like the perfect storm situation where if I was going to scale my freelance business down, then it was the time to start. And it really was! To be honest with you, having so many contracts and so many irons in the fire, it took me a full four months to intentionally scale my business back. It was by no means an overnight process.
So all of a sudden, it was like, “Wow, what a weird conversation. They're not complaining that anything's been done wrong, but they want to pay all three of us freelance writers working for them across the board much less.” We also went on vacation in May. It was a very healing and transformative vacation.
We took my sister in law with us. We were all over Europe. I emailed a client I had been with for years to say I wanted to cut my workload in half with them doing some of the editing work and still stay on with the writing work. I realized that when I came back from vacation, I didn't want to start doing the editing again. So I revised my original statement and said, “Can you just pull me out of this all together?”
So I gave up a good portion of income in order to do that, but it felt like the right decision.
And it really was. If you've never written and published a book before, whether that's self published or traditionally published, there was so much work that went into that behind the scenes. The book was launched on July 16. And I wanted to support it as much as possible because I knew I would not only set myself up for success with this first publication, but I was very intentional when I brought on an agent in 2018 that I wanted to write multiple books. She even stressed to me in our early conversations that the opportunities for future books would very much be based on what I could pull off with the first one.
I really did not want this book launch to fall apart for any reason. So I had put together a marketing plan that I created over the course of four months. I implemented that marketing plan over about six to seven months.
I had brought in an additional VA to help me with that. And I hired a publicist to help me with that. I rebooted my podcast. There were so many things going on in connection with the book and not one of them do I regret! But because I made that decision, I had to scale back other things in my business.
There was not another form of freelance writing that was exciting me at the time. I started dipping my toes into the water with public speaking by doing some workshops. I also expanded my freelance coaching business because I started to realize that I really did not want to be writing eight to nine hours a day.
And there is an excellent video you can watch here. It is like the motto of 2019 for me. It's an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and multiple other books. I strongly recommend her book “Big Magic” if you haven't checked it out. But in this interview, she talks about the difference between a hobby, a job, a career, and a vocation.
So she talks about the fact that writing will always be her vocation, even if it is not her career. She talks about all the other jobs she's held where she wasn't writing, but it gave her the mental space to be a writer outside of those hours. So for me delving into nonfiction into fiction, into doing public speaking into coaching, all of those, to some extent, involve additional writing.
I was also getting pressure to finish up my PhD.
Talk about a massive writing project writing a doctoral dissertation. I could see the writing on the wall at the rate that I was going with the volume of clients that I had. And I could not do all of these other writing projects, and also be writing six to nine hours a day for clients.
So I actually had my best freelance month ever, in 2019, nearly $30,000 in freelance income.
And I also had my worst freelance month in recent years in August. So I believe that the best one was April. And then in August I had my worst month that I've had in years in terms of income wise. But in terms of how I felt about things and how intentional I was in the way that my business looked, I view it like the opposite.
Because I had this huge month in April, and then I went on vacation. Honestly, I was starting to get burned out. And I could really sense that. I was experiencing the early signs of burnout. And I knew that that was going to be a problem for me . So I went from that best freelance month saying, “Okay, is this it?" I had a great freelance month. I don't necessarily feel like from a $10,000 month to a $30,000 month. But there wasn't more happiness or peacefulness. I honestly feel kind of tired a little bit burned out. So for me, this is not the direction that I want my business to grow.
There are seasons in your freelance business. And there's been seasons where I've outsourced all my writing work. There have been seasons where I did not advertise my coaching practice at all because it was completely booked through word of mouth. And there have been seasons where I've said that we are not filming YouTube videos for four months. Or that I'm taking a year and a half break from my podcast. Things are always in flux.
Some other doors started to open, as soon as I started to intentionally scale down my freelance business. And I was having a conversation about this in my freelancing group, which you can check out. It's Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura. This idea came up of, when you have filled your schedule with other things in a way, you can actually be limiting yourself from better opportunities or opportunities that you want.
So people might wonder how that makes sense. I feel like if there's something in the back of your mind that it's calling on you to do like writing a book or opening another business entirely, but you fill your schedule with what comes easily to you, which could be bringing on freelance contracts, you're kind of denying a part of yourself. You're actually limiting your personal and business growth.
Because if you bring in great money, but you don't feel good about it, or your start to feel like I did, which was just like I needed to complete my projects because I was on deadline. But I had several clients where I was not excited to work on their projects at all. I was really just doing it to get things done because I had made a commitment to work for that client.
I realized how dangerous that was. And I was not doing the best thing for me. I'm not doing the best thing for my clients. So I did a very careful inventory of all of my clients on my current roster and said, “What can I change? And how can I make this more in line with where I want to go?”
Now it's hard to say no to a really good thing. I'm so grateful for my business. But writing is not something I want to do 40 hours anymore. And it's actually a gift to have been a writer for full time for the last six years because I've been able to expand into other skill sets like selling courses and doing project and content management for clients that requires more communication skills than writing. Doing public speaking and coaching, writing books, doing TEDx talks, it's opened other doors and made me see that this is not all that I am limited to. So rather than feeling like I've taken it as far as I can take it, and let's just wake up every day and do the same thing over again, I started looking for new challenges.
Mindset work is key. I have done more mindset work in the last six months than probably the entirety of all of my life before that. For you, mindset work might look like prayer, sitting there quietly journaling, doing meditation every day, or bringing up new hobbies. All of it helps you to honor your purpose.
As a freelancer, we are hearing communication, thoughts and ideas daily. Your business can easily overtake your brain because it is something that you cannot really shut off and confine to an office. It's usually your entire home. When you're out running or exercising or doing errands, you're thinking about your business. So there's a lot of noise.
It's very hard sometimes to honor your purpose when there's so much noise coming at you from so many different directions. So being intentionally quiet, sitting down and making that effort to learn more about what it is you really want to do and what your next step is, can allow you to hear some of that inner intuition. Even if you're doing this through prayer, hearing from the spiritual portion of your life getting some wisdom about what steps to take next.
I had filled my business with so much noise and interference that I could not tell what it was I wanted to do anymore. I had a whole bunch of obligations, and maybe only about 65 to 70% of them were things that I wanted to do. So I had to start really honoring that and start exploring new avenues.
The minute that I started that process, which was super messy, and took me the entire summer and is still ongoing, I started to see other doors opening. I got some wisdom and intuition about what my next steps were.
We humans tend to initially resisted it. I was like, “Yeah, I'm not doing that. That's not the next step for me.” But starting to pursue these different routes was really helpful for me to start thinking about what I want my business and life to look like going forward and how I can continue to change things and allow this to evolve.
So just because you built something to the point where it's successful and doing well financially, that doesn't always mean that that is your end point. Many of the most successful business owners and freelancers that I know are evolving. They are not afraid to say, “Okay, I did this. It was great. Now it's time to move on. I have a new dream or I have this other dream in the back of my mind that I've always wanted to do. And now I'm going to live it.”
I think as creatives a lot of us are called to freelancing because we want to do something creative. But when that becomes our job eight to nine hours a day, being creative for other clients, it's really hard to apply that same level of creativity to our own projects. So for me, some of the best writing and side hustling I ever did, was the year that I ran my business as a side hustle while I had a full time job. Because I had to be very specific about what I did in my off hours. A lot of my job was very menial. To that extent, it was boring. But I also didn't have to do a lot of heavy lifting with my brain during the day.
So you're the CEO. You're the VP of Marketing, management, hiring, and human resources. And you're the CFO. You're everything. Even when you have a VA or a couple of people on your team, you are still making a massive amount of decisions, And so that might not be right for everyone running your business at that level.
So for me, a lot of the guidance that I got was to scale my freelance clients down to 10 hours a week. And it was so awkward and weird to do this. It was weird to turn people down and to fire clients after test projects when I couldn't see how they fit into my new 10 hour a week model, and to allow contracts to come to a natural end and to not try to replace them. It was weird because I never really done that purposely before.
I found that honestly that got very empty for me because it was like, “Oh, great. We had a good month, but I didn't feel like my purpose and my passion was coming through at the level that the money was.” So it was something where I knew that if I want to have a bigger impact, if I really want to help people then there had to be changes. I really felt that I needed to change some things about the freelance side of my business to make that happen.
Do the mindset work. And do it every day for one to two hours a day, if you can. I spent so much time walking, journaling, talking things out with my husband, my mom, or other people in my life. I was like, “Okay, if I'm going to change this, what is this going to look like?”
I did a talk a couple of weeks ago, very similar to this topic. I was at my alma mater in Virginia. And I talked about the power of the pivot. So a lot of times we ignore signs from our body that it's time to move on when something no longer fits you in the way that it's currently structured.
So I will probably always freelance. But for me I was able to scale my business down to still be a six figure writing business, but only about 10 hours a week by being very picky about the clients that I do have.
So you have three main options available to you when you recognize that freelancing isn't fit. You can:
So maybe you want to launch your own company, write a book, or get a whole new job, but you know that that's not something you can do tomorrow, so maybe over six to 12 months. Freelancing is how you can bridge the gap. You're taking on a couple of projects to float you financially.
For me, I didn't know what direction I wanted to go in yet. I did public speaking and I knew just from speaking to some experts and doing some of it already, I did not want that to be my new full time income. I talked to a very savvy, public speaker coach several months ago and she told me how she had spent over 200 nights a year in a hotel room. And with that one sentence I knew it wasn’t for me. I know there's a need for more great executive and female public speakers and motivational speakers out there. Butthat just felt like it would be trading freelancing full time for doing something that would be even more stressful and require more travel.
I was not motivated to get projects done. I've coped with varying levels of anxiety my entire life. And for a long time when I was a child, all the way through graduate school, I was diagnosed with ADD. I was medicated for ADD. It was a real struggle for me to stay focused and organized.
Sometimes people who meet me today are surprised to hear that they think I'm hyper organized. That is a coping mechanism I developed from years of living with severe ADHD. So when I start to notice my ADD coming back and my anxiety bubbling up every day, I start to notice symptoms like headaches, ulcers, and feeling tired more often. That's usually how my body tells me it's time to go.
My body actually started to shut down when I was teaching in Baltimore City. That was the point for me to recognize that it was really serious and I needed to step out of that particular job. So I always watch for those types of things such as missing deadlines, making mistakes with your clients, and not feeling excited about getting on sales calls or turning things in hitting a major milestone like having a huge month or bringing on a huge client. It's much more anticlimactic than you thought. Those are all signs that it's time to take a baby step towards your next purpose.
On that note, I strongly recommend the audible only book “Take Control of Your Life with Mel Robbins”. The very first case study she does is with a famous teacher who wants to do something in the wine business. But he doesn't know what yet and he's essentially paralyzed by all of the choices. She talks about Lego blocks and building blocks that move you towards what your purpose is, when you're not sure what it is.
So you take little baby steps to try things out. Maybe you have dinner with someone. Or maybe you reach out to people. For me, I reached out heavily to my military spouse, community and all of the networks that I had there to say, “Hey, I'm thinking about changing things up. What advice do you have?” Leaning on other people can be very, very helpful. So check out those books and resources to learn more.
Start a nonprofit. Volunteer some of your free time developing another business entirely coaching other people, either as a life coach or business coach. You can write books, do public speaking, start a podcast, or maybe work in a more traditional employment situation or a full time remote job to pick up newer or better skills.
I felt to an extent like I had tapped out what I could really do with SEO writing. I did it. And it was great. And I've enjoyed doing it. There are several clients where it's still enough of a challenge and interest for me to continue doing it. But I could tell that wasn't what I wanted to be spending the bulk of my time doing.
But I wanted to help you recognize that you always have the ability and the permission, for goodness sakes, granted to yourself to change things in your business if it's not working for you. I will still be freelancing. I will still be making an income from freelancing. But I'm actually setting my freelance business up to reflect more of what it looked like when I first started back when I had a full time job and was a grad student doing other things, so that I can fold in some other things and fold in some more downtime, and get my dissertation done.
So, I just wanted to sort of do this preliminary episode to talk a little about that. I will come back in a couple of months to talk to you more about how this transition has worked out. But I hope that this episode has been helpful for you to see the many different ways that you can alter your life and your business to make sure that it suits where you're at right now.
It is not dishonoring what you've built. And It is not viewing your current business as a failure. But if you feel disconnected, and if you feel like there's something more out there for you, I really encourage you to make the mindset work mandatory because no one can answer that question for you.
She didn’t think she wanted to freelance at all. And that's valuable information to know, even when you're working with the freelancing coach. So then our conversations really shifted towards how do we start you building the life you love, working towards the goals that you want, knowing that freelancing might just be something that bridges the gap. It might just be something that opens another door for you.
So I hope this episode has been helpful for you. Please send any questions or concerns to email@example.com and thanks again for tuning in. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.
This is episode 86 of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. I'm doing a separate introduction here because this is the first time that I've interviewed a guest in this new format and reboot of my podcast. I was super excited to talk to her because of her expertise.
She is a writer, speaker, and consultant that is passionate about helping people spend their days in work that is wildly fulfilling. She is the host of the podcast Hustle and Grace, which you should totally go check out right now. Binge some of that after you're done with this episode.
She's also the author of several ebooks and courses including “More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives”. She has also served as a Professor of Communications, Social Media and Journalism, at Southern New Hampshire for five years. And she's also a freelance writer for hire with expertise in direct response, copywriting, and content marketing.
As a freelancer, she has served clients ranging from Broadway shows to non profits large and small, creatives of all stripes, and consumer brands. And she has written hundreds of articles in dozens of publications, including USA Today and The Washington Post. She and her family live in the DC metro area. We will post all of her contact information at the bottom of the show notes.
And how could you create a hybrid blend, where you've got essentially an employee-employer relationship as part of the mix, but not as your full time gig. I hear from more and more freelancers these days who are looking to build an intentional freelance business. They don't want to be working 40 or 60 hours a week as a freelancer.
For some of them freelancing was their ticket out of working in a dead-end job, but they're now realizing that freelancing full time isn't quite the right fit either. The cool thing about these side hustlers is that we can rearrange our business and client load whenever we want to reflect the new dreams and goals that we have. Hilary is the perfect example of that. So stay tuned in this episode to hear more about the different transition she's made and how she recommends you do things like how to pick which industry or type of skill to focus on how to keep clients thrilled about coming back to work with you on retainer.
Hilary shared that she has been a person from the beginning who liked a lot of different things. She’s always been a person who loved writing. She’s always loved theater. And she loved connecting with people in college. She could not decide on a major for the longest time and actually ended up with three or four minors as a consolation prize.
She started freelancing around 2007-2008. Which, if you'll remember, that was around the time that the great recession hit. So freelancing was something that she wanted to do, but it was also something she was kind of forced to do. Because at that time, companies were on hiring freezes. People weren't hiring full time. So Hilary said that it was sort of like a happy accident that she got into freelancing at that time when people were actually sort of looking for some freelancers.
So she started freelance writing, then she was also balancing it with a career as an actress in theater, especially musical theatre. It got to a point were in between performing, she was doing some writing here and there. But it wasn't really enough to pay the bills. And so she was also working retail and doing some different things.
And so she thought she would go back to school and get a masters degree so she could at least possibly get into the online education boom that was happening at that time. She thought, if she could maybe teach online, she could still have this autonomous lifestyle that she loved. She could work from anywhere. And she could go audition in the middle of the day. There was something about a full time job that felt very limiting to her. It felt very stifling to her and her personality, because in the beginning she had three or four different minors and a love for lots of different things. So she always really liked variety.
So back to school she went. She studied media and communications with a focus on media. She really dove into the social media space. That was also really interesting timing because that's when companies started realizing, “Hey, we should hire someone or we should hire a freelancer or a consultant to help with our social media.” And so that's sort of how she really got started as a full time freelancer.
She did social media. And she did a ton of blog writing. She still did article writing for magazines. That sort of grew into a career as a content marketer and a direct response copywriter that she has today.
Now she lives in the DC metro area right outside of DC. She works as a full time freelancer. There was a time just a couple of years ago that she thought that maybe what she really wanted was to work remotely. She thought that it would give her the flexibility and autonomy that she wanted.
Well, it turns out she really likes working for herself. So she works as a part time consultant with an agency. That's sort of her anchor client. She’s technically a W2 there, but she’s part time. She works remotely. She feels like they're her client to be honest. But she is part of a team.
So she does that part time. And then she sprinkles in whatever she has time for around that. So she does direct response copy. She does freelance career coaching. And she has some online courses and intellectual property. She does public speaking. Basically, she does lots of different things. She likes to keep the variety going. But she does have this dependable anchor client in the staffing agency.
A lot of us get that feeling of being stifled in a traditional job where you're doing the same thing all day every day. Even though sometimes the variety can be a little bit crazy, it's often a welcome part of the freelancer's life. Why? Because you do get to decide who you work with and who you don't.
It's interesting that Hilary brought up that she has this anchor client. To her, they're kind of a client, but not really because it's also like an employee employer situation, but it's super flexible. So you view it like a client.
It's very interesting because a lot of times for people that are looking to do full time freelancing, I tell them to never just have one client, That's super dangerous, right? You should never put all your eggs in one basket. And obviously, Hilary done that. But what advice does Hilary have for freelancers who maybe get an offer like that?
I see a lot of people who are like, “Oh, a recruiter contacted me about a remote opportunity or a part time opportunity. They want to pay me W2. How do you set that up for success in the rest of your business being in the context of freelance?” It sounds like they're very much like a client for Hilary.
Hilary shared that she thinks some of it is that you just have to feel out in the interview process. But she thinks you also have to be honest from the beginning about what your values are and what you care about. Be honest with them that they're going to get your 110% effort. But you're not going to have that same approach to the company that other people might go in there from 9 to 5.
Hilary shared that in her situation, she doesn’t view them as an employer. And she also feels like they put her in my own special category as well. So you know, there are times when it's so beneficial because she’s outside of the office politics. She’s outside of the water cooler chatter. Those parts of working in an office that she frankly, doesn't feel comfortable with and doesn’t really like.
So she thinks it's important to be honest from the get go. She thinks it's important to ask the tough questions in that process in the beginning. You have to yourself, “Self, what is important to me?” You have to ask how much anxiety does it bring me to have five different clients that all get 20% of my time or, 10 different clients still get 10% of my time? Is it less for you to worry about? Is it less for you to think about? Does it bring you some peace of mind to have a client that's 40%?
Because a lot of times she thinks a freelance line item on a budget feels unemotional to cut at the end of the year. Whereas, if you are a W2, she thinks that employers and companies don't feel as comfortable just being like, “Oh, we'll just reallocate that money.”
She has had that experience herself. She had a client that was about 20%- 25% of her income recently. And at the end of the year, they just said, “Oh, we're just going to rearrange some things. And we're going to hire someone in house.” It was over an email and was so impersonal. And all year, they had been a huge piece of her pie. But, she was just a line item for them.
So Hilary thinks there is something beneficial about having that relationship where you're not full time, you don't do the commute every day, and you're not there every day, but they rely on you. You rely on them almost like a retainer. Hilary thinks it's a good thing. It's a good situation, depending on what you want and what your goals are.
Most freelancers have defined channels for marketing. They know how they're going to find their clients. I asked Hilary what she suggests that freelancers interested in a client like hers go and do to fine someone like that. Do you use different terminology or pitching techniques or networking to find a client like that and to kind of convince them that you're the right one for the role? Because like Hilary mentioned, a lot of times, we are seen as outsiders. Freelancers are brought in to work on specific projects. Or as a writer, they might do some of the content marketing.
Hilary thinks it depends on where you're coming from and what you're doing just prior to that. For me and her situation, she had been working full time for a company remotely. And she just put the flag on her LinkedIn saying that she was open to conversations with recruiters. She moved my location to the DC metro area because she was moving to DC and almost immediately when she got there, a local company reached out to me.
It was a marketing staffing agency So they didn't take long for them to find someone who was the right fit. Hilary shared that she was a great fit for them not only because she was looking and open to freelance and part time and remote opportunities, but also in her previous job, she was doing the marketing writing. Which is the kind of writing that I liked, but the topic wasn't something that I was passionate about.
So in her off times from when she wasn't working on the projects for her job, she was contributing to newspapers like the USA Today writing about careers. She was writing about how to nail your internship. Those kinds of topics that actually aligned really beautifully with this client and part time gig that she has now.
Hilary thinks it's important before you find that perfect sweet spot that you're really putting it out there and cultivating your own personal brand around the topics and the things that you love to write about or the projects that you just love to do. Don't just get bogged down in whatever it is that your current job and the projects assigned to you. Create your own work. Hilary thinks that really attracts those special opportunities. And it will also show that you're more than just a writer. You're more than just a designer.
Whatever it is that you do, you also have a passion for this specific niche. Because when you have a passion for a specific niche and someone needs someone like you, they're more willing to be flexible. They're more willing to be like, “Okay, well we really want somebody in the office. We really want to pay this. But maybe we can rework some things because who's gonna be more perfect for this job that you? Probably no one. So we'll do what you want to do. We'll make it work.”
That is making yourself visible to recruiters on LinkedIn. I probably post about this several times a month in my Facebook Group. Why? Because it's just takes three minutes. Go turn the button on and tell the recruiters exactly what you're available for. Because that is always the most searched person. Every time I go into who's viewed my profile on LinkedIn, recruiters are always number one. Those are great relationships to cultivate. It's free and easy. If your profile is optimized, that's perfect.
And then Hilary also talked about building your own brand. I think this is so important. People get bogged down in that too. If you don't have a lead at USA Today or Business Insider where you can post, then use your LinkedIn and your website to build your brand. You need to be posting articles and content that are relevant to your industry. People also find you that way through the hashtags, through the words that you use, and how frequently you post.
The reason I bring this up is because I'm in a lot of communities with other military spouses and a lot of them are looking for remote opportunities. Because, obviously, they move a lot. They want a job that's going to travel with them. And there's sometimes this confusion between, What's the difference between working remotely and something like starting my own business as a virtual assistant or something like that you've actually done it. I asked Hilary to share from her perspective, what would you say those primary differences are? And how do you know which one might be right for you?
A remote job is a job where you might as well be in an office because you have like one client. You have one job. And you have one supervisor. You're probably benefited and get things like 401k and insurance. You're an employee just like anyone else, except that you don't have that commitment to the office.
Whereas a freelancer, you can kind of like cultivate it and make it whatever you want it to be. It's where you are the business. You don't work for another business. But you are the business. So you not only do the work, but you also do the business development. You go and find the clients. And you take care of billing and invoices. So if you're thinking about if a business is like the office, then you are everybody in the office.
Hilary was referring to The Office TV show because she’s finally catching up on it. It's like 10 years too late, but she’s in the final season. When you are the business, you are fearless. You are Michael. You are Angela. You're everyone if you're a freelancer. But if you work as a remote employee, then you are just one of those guys and you work from home.
And I think some of it also comes down to the level of risk you're willing to absorb at the outset. Because honestly, I know a lot of people are like, “Oh, a full time job, whether it's remote or an office, it's so much more stable.” There's a lot of arguments to make that your job could be eliminated or like the company that I used to work for before freelancing completely closed. So stability and risk is a questionable thing at that.
But when you're starting out, like you said, as a freelancer, you have to go create your own paycheck. At a job you're showing up and they're telling you these are the things we need you to do. You're going to get the benefits. This is going to be your paycheck, It's going to drop in your account every two weeks. A freelancer is taking on more of that upfront risk of saying, “Okay, I have to go chase the clients. I'm going to take on the responsibility of paying the taxes as a self employed person. I'm going to figure out what to do with my benefits, etc.”
Some people are a little bit more averse to that. And others might be like, “Oh, yeah, I absolutely want to be my own boss.” So those are the important differences between remote and freelancing. I think it's helpful for people to know that, The good thing too, is you could work remotely and still have a freelance side hustle. There's lots of different ways that you could set it up.
I know a lot of people who are like, “I'm kind of into social media and maybe a little bit of writing and some other things.” I asked Hilary how do you decide to narrow down or do you not recommend doing that?
Hilary thinks it depends on your personality. She thinks it depends on how much time you have on your hands that is available. And how much of a learning curve there is. If you got a degree in marketing, and you've kind of been in that world and you already have specialized interests, pay attention to the things that catch your eye. Pay attention to the pages that you follow on Facebook, the brands that you scroll through on Instagram, and the accounts that you follow on Twitter. What are the topics that catch your eye that you have a natural interest in?
She thinks that's a really great place to start. Because she thinks that you're going to be more invested. You're going to have more of a passion for those projects. If you're still in the stage of building a portfolio and finding who you are as a marketer then she thinks that it's good to start small. Build those personal relationships and personal connections.
Start spreading the word that you're building a freelance business. Maybe you don't want to ask someone directly for them to hire you or for their business. Maybe you do. You can minimally start spreading the word in your network by saying, “Hey, like I'm getting into this. I've always kind of had a knack for social media. I really think that I could help small like mom and pop restaurants, in particular, really nail their social media. I see so many bad pictures of food on Instagram. I really love taking pictures with this amazing portrait mode that I have on my latest iPhone. I really think that I could help people.”
Just start one email at a time or one Facebook message at a time. You could do one coffee meet up at a time and build, build, build. Spread the word about what it is that you like. And she thinks starting with some that you're passionate about and pairing that with a skill that you're confident in is a really, really great place to start. And she thinks that there are lots of different things that you could do. But the more that you narrow down in the beginning, the more success that you can have because you can be confident that this is what you do well and you can really serve your clients well that way.
But I feel like when you say, “Alright, I'm going to be a social media marketer. I'm going to do content strategy. I'm going to do SEO and pay per click ads.” When you take on 6 or 7 different specialities, it's really hard to keep up with the changes and software in six or seven industries. Claim competency in one or two where you're like, “Yes, these are the blogs I follow. These are the podcasts I listened to. I do it enough within my day that I know what works as a best practice and what things are coming down the pike as trends.”
But I feel like I see a lot of freelancers, especially VAs, post on their website, “These are the 45 different services I can do for you.” That sets you up to be so frazzled and constantly having to go back and be like, “Okay, have there been updates in Facebook ads? I haven't worked at the Facebook Ads client in four months. So now I have to go back to the drawing board reteach myself that again.” That can be really stressful.
So I think it's good, like Hilary mentioned, as soon as you get started, start seeing what you gravitate to. Start seeing what you like and what converts well with clients. What are clients asking you to do with them? Are your sales calls easy and they're like, “Oh, sold! I so don't want to do this. You sound like the expert.”? Those are all signals that you can take and apply to your life.
This big hurdle for a lot of freelancers both new and experienced. They do a lot of one time projects. Since Hilary seems to develop relationships with her clients where it's more of a long term situation, how does she suggest that freelancers set themselves up to be open to more of those opportunities?
Firstoff, she thinks this is so important. A few different things come to mind. The first is to say yes to projects that you know you can nail. I think it's nice to stretch yourself. It's nice to try new things. But in terms of building relationships with clients that you're going to have for a long time, you really want to build that dependability and that trust. So say yes to things that you feel very confident in.
Also cultivate real relationships. When you hop on a call, don't just get right down to business. Ask someone about their family or how their sports team did. You can ask things like what's the weather like today or where you are. She knows it sounds silly to always start with the weather, but it's such a nice icebreaker. And such a reminder of, “Yes, I'm here alone in my home in Northern Virginia, but you might be in your home office in Nashville.” She thinks it's so important to take the time to build a relationship besides just getting down to business.
My husband and I just relocated to Minnesota a few months ago. And every single person who finds that out wants to know how cold it is. They want to know how bad the winters are and why on earth would we move to Minnesota. It just it instantly breaks people down from that level of professionalism when you show up to a call. I used to say when people would ask me where I lived. I would share that my husband is in the military. So we live wherever the Navy sends us. And it would always disarm people to make them feel like they're talking to a person and less salesy and everything. So I totally agree.
And another one of my tips for that is when you are preparing to talk to a client or to start building that relationship, check out what you can about them online. A lot of people will share things on their LinkedIn or on other social media. And I just openly admit to it like, “Hey, I kind of stalked you a little bit. I saw you run marathons. That's amazing.” People are so flattered by that. They're like, “Oh, yeah, I started doing it five years ago.”
It starts this whole honest communication thing, where you really are trying to get to know them. And you can ask questions about it or use that as an icebreaker. And you're right, it really sets people up to want to continue to work with you, because you took that little bit of extra effort to build a relationship and to have communication.
When I was talking about hopping on the phone and talking about something like that is one reason that Hilary is a big believer in moving some conversations from email to phone as quickly as possible. When they email her and ask what her rates are or something like that, she wants to move that conversation from like cut and dry email to the phone as quickly as possible because she wants them to know that she’s a human. She wants to know that they're human. She wants to figure out how she can help them succeed at their job. If she can write the perfect thing for them, then that's going to help them put food on the table for their family. So as soon as you can, move from email to phone. She thinks that's something that is really not done as much these days as it used to be. But she thinks that that can really be a game changer and building that rapport and building that connection with a client.
I am the same way, I always want my clients to get on the phone with me, even if it is for five minutes, because people can present themselves differently on paper than even in like phone or zoom or Skype communication. So I want them to know I am a real person. I also feel like it's a much better chance for you to convert the sale. If you get one of those emails with like, “Oh, send me your rates.” And then you write back with your rate sheet. It's so impersonal. There's no value demonstrated there.
And the whole conversation is revolving around money, which does not put you in a positive negotiation situation at all. It's very easy for the person on the other end of that computer to open it and think it’s too expensive. But when they've had that conversation with you, they're like, “Man, she really knew her stuff. She seems pretty organized. I saw her website and clients are raving about her. I just need to get this off my plate. Why waste further time thinking about it?” You built up that value there. So I could not agree with Hilary’s advice more.
So many freelancers are like, “Oh, we live in a digital world. Let me just close it over email.” And not everyone can close over email. You're still a stranger to them. So let's take that off the table a little bit and have even a 5-10 minute phone conversation. You're in a much better position there. So I love that advice, because I try to do the same thing.
I want to thank Hilary for agreeing to come on the show and sharing so much of her insight. I think that's going to be really helpful for people who are either new to freelancing or who are thinking about expanding their freelance business. She shared a lot of really valuable insights.
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.
Hilary Sutton is a writer, speaker, and consultant passionate about helping people spend their days in work that is wildly fulfilling. She is the host of the podcast, “Hustle and Grace” and the author of several eBooks and courses including More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives. Hilary served as professor of communications, social media, and journalism at Southern New Hampshire for five years. She is a freelance writer for hire with expertise in direct response copywriting and content marketing. As a freelancer she has served clients ranging from Broadway shows, to nonprofits large and small, creatives of all stripes, and consumer brands. She has written hundreds of articles in dozens of publications including USA Today and The Washington Post. Hilary and her family live in the DC metro area. Connect with Hilary on Facebook and Twitter @hilarysutton, on Instagram @hilary.sutton and on her website at hilarysutton.com.
This is episode 85 of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. In this episode, I'll be talking about a recent experience I had with a client that I completed a test project for and then terminated from my client roster. This is based on a topic that comes up a lot. And that's when your per piece rate is not really a true freelance per piece rate.
Now, for most beginners in the freelancing world, charging hourly makes sense.
Many freelancers struggle with how to set rates and to determine something that's fair. So for a lot of beginners, I recommend starting off the process by charging an hourly rate based on your expertise, your background in the industry, and sort of something you generally feel comfortable with. Then give the client an overview of how long you think it might take you to complete the project that might vary from one project to another. And so that's why hourly is a good place to start.
You don't want to lock yourself into huge projects charging hourly. But it can be a really good baseline to determine whether you need to charge more on an hourly basis. So that you can start to get a sense of how many hours it takes you to do typical projects. Then you can convert to a per piece rate.
I like per piece rates for lots of freelancers, because they make it easier on the client to know exactly what the client is paying for and going to get an exchange.
There are no surprise invoices for the client. But they can also be better for the freelancer because you aren't being penalized for being a fast or a slow worker. I honestly believe that charging hourly is really hard for a lot of freelancers at the intermediate and advanced level, because we end up simply selling our hours. So a lot of times I based multiple factors into deciding whether or not I'm going to convert something from hourly to a per piece rate.
And my per piece rate is going to include my expertise in the industry. It is also going to factor in how long it's going to take me and other relevant information such as is this piece highly technical. Or do I have to do more revision request for a particular client? So when you can convert a client to a per piece rate, it makes a lot of sense. Because then everybody knows up front what it is you're going to charge and you feel comfortable with the rate.
There are also some freelance projects where it's essentially impossible to charge a per piece rate unless you have a really good handle on what the project looks like.
Editing is a great example. Things like certain forms of virtual assistant work, data entry, and website maintenance are hard to get an exact read on how long a project like that is going to take. And it might be more appropriate to charge hourly. So keep that in the back of your mind.
Also, are there extenuating factors here? If someone's asking me to edit their dissertation, for example, and they sent me a one sample chapter to review, I don't know if the sample chapters is going to take as long as every other chapter. So it might be easier for me to quote an hourly rate with a range if I can't get to that per piece rate. But in general, as a writer, my preference is a per piece rate, because it makes it very clear to everyone involved, exactly what's included> You quote a number and tell them how many rounds of revision or how many phone calls or how many other bells and whistles they're going to get.
Check Out Another Recent Episode on Freelance Test Jobs
I want to walk you through an experience I recently had with a client and go back and review the previous episode about test jobs.
If that's something that you have not used before, I strongly recommend using test jobs. You can hear more about test jobs in episode 82. It's very important to help you get to feeling more grounded and confident. Using test jobs is just as important for the client as they are for you as a freelancer because it allows you to test out who you might not want to work with.
Recently I had the opportunity to work with a client on a project piece rate project.
It was actually a rush project. I was doing them a huge favor, because they essentially had another writer working in a contract position, but she was basically full time. And she quit in the middle of the month. So they had some social media calendars due. They had several blogs due. And some other information that was due at that time.
So the client sort of told me what person was doing. They gave an example of what was published. And they let me know the per piece rate. So I went and looked at the material and thought, “Okay, the purpose rate seems fair. This is a test project. We can always come back to it and discuss this again after the test portion is complete should I go forward and working with them.”
This was actually a mismatch with expectations because it truly was a very low hourly rate once you factored in all of the other things that they consider to be a part of one piece.
So for example, they sent me a long hours and hours of video and or phone recordings with the client and the previous writer that they wanted me to listen to. Now, some of these weren't even relevant because they were regarding content that had been published by the previous writer. But based on the per piece rate, that wasn't something we discussed at the outset of the project. I wasn’t told that I was going to have to listen to hours of conference calls discussing each line item one at a time.
Also the rounds of editing that were expected were a little bit ridiculous. Also, the client gave me a title. I stepped in to help turn this around really quickly as a favor. I turned in many of one piece the same day and two more pieces the following day. And these were all overdue because the other writer had stepped down.
So my expectation was that I did this on a rush project for them based on the per piece rate we discussed to do that. And then they came back six or seven days later saying that what I had done wasn't exactly what the client was expecting. Why? Because that client had shared all their information outlining and what they wanted to see that piece be with the other writer. Well, of course, I didn't have access to that information.
And I didn't have the time or the interest in sitting down and listening to hours and hours of phone calls.
Because I started to think about all of the going back and forth communicating about this. And I thought about all these revisions on the one piece where they'd sent the information to the other writer and had never shared it with me. They wanted me to rewrite it entirely, which I did not agree to do.
Between texts, emails, phone calls, and the expectations that you'll respond right away. They would send me emails at five o'clock. Then two hours later reply all and say, “Did you get this or not?” I'm not working anymore at 5:00 PM. You know what I mean? So that's when your per piece rate is not really a per piece. Because you base your pricing for certain clients on what you anticipate goes into it.
For a writer,designer, or a developer, it includes a specific package. And you might say they have one round of revisions, one kickoff call, one strategy call, one vision setting,and a meeting. This is just an example. But then if they start expanding farther and farther beyond that, they want you to revise things six or seven times. Or they want you to answer text messages. And they're supposed to respond to your edits or your version submitted during the day and then they don't. They wait until after the fact and send you emails at 10 o'clock at night. Now they're starting to push on your boundaries, right?
One of my private coaching clients had an issue where the client was unnecessarily revising things four and five times. It was even clearly in their contract that the maximum would be two rounds of revision. For short things like blog posts, I don't know why you'd ever need more than two rounds of revision. Sure somebody's master's thesis you would need more than two rounds of revisions, but not a 500 or 600 word blog post. That's just ridiculous. So this is when the price that you've quoted, even when you have clear expectations, and the contract does not line up with the amount of work you are doing on that actual job.
So how do you deal with this when this comes up after a test job?
I actually think that you can bring this up in the middle of working on a test job or working with a client. This is where you say, “Hey. I put together the proposal based on the following expectations.” You always want to direct the client back to anything in writing that you have that stipulates that. For example, the contract stating that there's only two rounds of revisions. And then explain where the problems are.
You can also redirect your clients by saying, “Hey, I think it would be most efficient if we took the following steps.” Imagine there's a case where there's 10 people on the team and they're all reviewing your work and providing feedback. I was on another project like that recently. It was the launch of a website. So we had designers, developers, the site owner, and project managers. Everyone was involved.
And one of the most effective things that the project manager did was doing weekly status updates letting us all know where everything is at. Here's what we're waiting on from each person. This is where we're stalled. So that's something you can do as a freelancer doing any type of service, you can say, “Here's how I think we could be most effective. I think we should go back to the drawing board and review the editorial calendar and do a 30 minute call. We can discuss all the specifics there, clarify titles, clarify keywords, etc.”
We don't want to go do a redesign of an entire website and then the Vice President of Marketing chimes in four days late with his requests. Now you would have to go back and do it all over again. So explain what your expectations were and then reference that this would probably be most efficient and effective for everyone if you took the following steps and then outline what those steps are. It doesn't necessarily guarantee that the client is going to follow those steps every single time. But that way you at least have it in writing that you've made an effort. Part of this really is about making that effort. Because if you do terminate this client or drop them after the test job, you want to know that you made your best effort.
With this particular client, it was too confusing with the different expectations. And it wasn’t really a fair per piece rate and they weren't really willing to budge. So I decided not to work with that client. You can address it in a way where you're still making an effort to fix it after a test job by telling the client what your expectations were and what you think going forward. You can also say, :I base my test job price o n factors x, y,& z. However, we also discovered factors A, B, and C working together. So I've adjusted my per piece rate as a result.”
You can also ask how necessary is the kickoff call? Do you want me to remove that from an ongoing retainer proposal? You can let them know that if they really do need that extra round of revisions, then you need to factor that into your pricing. So after a test job, unless the client was unbearable, or is not willing to adjust at all, on the pricing or these boundaries, try to fix it and suggest what those steps would be.
Let them know what would be most helpful for you and for everyone involved. Maybe it was something where you got approval to do certain things. And then the project manager came back two weeks later and changed everything up. So maybe you propose that you need to do a kickoff call with the project manager. And once he or she signs off, the decisions that we made on that call are considered final and can’t be updated.
You don't have to necessarily fire them right away. But I think one of the most helpful things you can do is to remind your client that they are not your only client. Often, many clients that are working with numerous people, including in house employees or remote employees, can blur the line between independent contractors and employees. They start to treat you like you are their worker on call as an independent contractor. Legally in the United States, you are not.
You might explain, “Hey. I just want to let you know that text messaging is really the worst way to get ahold of me. It's not something I can easily and quickly see. It would be much better if we had things coming through email or our project management software so that I can always find that written form of communication by doing a search.” So that's one way you can address it in the middle of a contract.
If, for example, I was in the middle of the contract with the client that I mentioned above, and they said, “Hey, can you go listen to four hours of phone calls?” I would have said, unfortunately, we did not sign a contract to do that. Should you want me to listen to these phone calls, take notes, and then incorporate that into the writing, there's going to be a rush fee for that. Because I'm already working on these projects on a rush fee. And now I've got to build in time to my schedule to listen to hours of phone calls and here's the additional cost for doing that and the link to the invoice to pay it right.”
Sometimes clients don't realize that what they're asking for is above and beyond what you agreed to. This is why we do test jobs and get really clear instructions and guidelines at the outset of any project working together because we want to know what all is included. Maybe this client it's an absolute must that you do a 60 minute kickoff call at the beginning of every month with them. And that's fine. But that needs to be in your proposal. That needs to be in your contract. And if they're asking for things that are well outside of what's in the contract, it is your responsibility, as the freelancer, to let them know that and to provide recommendations for the next steps. You always want to give them a choice.
You can let them know that if this is really important, and it's something vital that I need to do, here's my suggested turnaround time on it. Here's the price to do it. And here's the invoice to pay to add this to our current contract. You can let them know that if they don't believe that it's important, however, to let you know.
Or you might say, “If you have an administrative assistant or old copies of notes from this phone call, or you're willing to pay to get it transcribed.” You can always present other options to the client where it's clear to them that they've kind of pushed the boundaries a little bit. And they're asking for things that are a little bit ridiculous.
And the more you let this go on in a test job or in the early part of your relationship with the client, the more likely they are to continue it and to honestly expect it. So it's much harder to address this issue six months into an ongoing contract than it is at the beginning. Why? Because you can not only stop whatever the current issue is, but block any potential scope creep or communications boundary pushing that might come down the line.
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.
Today, I'm steering a little bit away from some of the traditional strategies I love to talk about when growing your business to think a little bit more big picture. Have you ever created a mental health plan for your business? Or at least for the busy seasons as a freelancer? This is a topic that I feel connected to so personally, because I recently took the time to create what I'm calling my mental health plan.
We often talk about self care in the context of being business owners. But we rarely put enough pressure on that to make it appear as important as it really is. Because self care is key, right? But it's so easy to sweep that under the rug and act like, “Yeah, that's great. Like, I love to get a massage if I could afford it or fit the time in. But whatever, I'm really busy right now, that's not going to happen.”
And recently looking at my schedule, the number of things that were piled on it, and just sort of how I've changed and evolved my business model this year, I realized that I needed to have a mental health plan in place. Now, when you're listening to this episode, we're in the last quarter of 2019. I did several really important and cool things this year that I'm proud of. But the timing of all of them, and not having a mental health plan or structurally fitting in self care nearly led me to burn out.
So around the time of publishing my very first book, which was in July of 2019, I did so much work for the publication and promotion of that book. In addition I was moving to a new state for my husband's job and doing two TEDx talks. So writing those, editing those, memorizing those, and traveling to deliver those, just in conjunction with all of the other crazy things going on in my business, I felt that I was headed down the path to burnout. And burnout is something you really want to be aware of as a freelancer and as a business owner.
There have been studies showing that 40% of employees in the United States are so burned out that they just can't figure out how to move forward.
But employees are not the only ones who really cornered the market on being burned out. Entrepreneurs can burn out as well. It can have a lot of really negative problems for your personal life. And for your professional life. It's been tied to heart disease, depression problems, decision making, and job dissatisfaction. So lots of studies have been done about employees in big organizations and burnout.
I was reading some research in preparation for this episode, that burnout costs our country at least $300 billion a year. So burnout definitely affects entrepreneurs as well and can really deflate your overall job, PR, and/or passion you feel for showing up when you are fully burned out.
So when you've gone through all the phases, you stopped caring about everything.
You don't care if you lose clients. And you don't care if you get bad news. You don't care if you get good news. So you never want to get to that point. And being very aware of what burnout looks like and feels like for you is important. And it's a little bit different from one person to another.
For some people, their nutrition totally slips. They start cutting things out of their life that take up time, but we're really valuable. So they might cut out exercising because they feel like they are so busy that they can't possibly handle that right now. Or you're building your business and you cut back on some of the things that were giving you some sanity. That might be your housecleaner or maybe childcare that you had set up so that during the hours you worked on your business you could really focus on it.
So a recent study was completed and shared in the Harvard Business Review. According to this study, 3% of entrepreneurs felt severely burned out and 25% of entrepreneurs felt moderately burned out.
So we're talking about nearly a third of all entrepreneurs out there are feeling some level of burnout. And it will vary from one person to another. But its impacts can be far reaching. It can really damage your business. And it can damage your mental health. It can make you feel very overwhelmed. If you ever get to the point where it's really bad, you just feel like burning your business to the ground. You don't even care if everything just kind of goes belly up.
Unfortunately, in our society, we hear so much about hustling, working harder, or putting in 80 hours a week, if you want this to work. We internalize that as a badge of honor. We tout that we work really, really, really hard on our business. And doing that, in that way, for a long enough period of time, can absolutely lead to burnout.
And okay, maybe you're able to drag your body for three to six months of being that level of exhaustion and still function relatively well. But if you hit the severe levels of burnout and shut down, you could affect your business for months, or even years from that point. So it's far better to recognize when you have the potential for burnout. Which as an entrepreneur with those statistics I just shared, you definitely want to create a mental health plan to prepare for that.
I recently started working (again) on my Ph.D. dissertation.
In many ways, my PhD has been the hardest project I have ever worked on. It calls for different forms of communication, collaboration, writing, and research revisions. So even as a professional writer, it's something I've really struggled with mentally. And I took three years to completely off from my program to focus on building my business. I don't regret doing that. But of course, it's made it much harder to come back and start again.
So I was adding in that process of, “Okay, now that I have my business at this point, where I adjusted it from the book launch, let go a lot of freelance projects, allowed some to come to a natural close, amd terminated some contracts with some clients.”
So I really focused on the area of my business that was filling me up the most professionally and personally. And that was my coaching. That was working one on one with freelance coaching clients, which is something that I really love, It brings out the teacher background in me and I love helping other people build their business. And so I made that conscious decision to turn down money on the freelance side of my business.
For my sanity, I did not want to be writing eight or nine hours. TEvery single day, I was kind of over that. I felt like I'd taken it as far as I could go with my business in that sense. I had done almost everything I could do with freelance writing. And I didn't feel like there were many mountains left to climb. And it no longer felt fulfilling. It instead felt a little bit draining.
It's one of the great things about freelancing too, right? We can build our business up or back down if we need to. And I love that! As you build it down, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it means that you're being choosier about the clients you work with. You might end up making the same or more money when you do that. It’s very unique to freelancing in that way.
Some other opportunities came up that I could tell we're going to take a substantial portion of my time too. Potential book deals came on the table and all of these things were going to have deadlines or timelines that were really close to one another. So taking on a dissertation level project, which I feel exercises my brain the most, is the hardest type of work that I do.
It is also very time consuming. It's not like in my writing business. I'm always looking for ways to speed things up. You spend a lot of time thinking, writing notes, and creating materials that may never actually be published in a dissertation or in a document related to it. And so it's not as easy to speed that process up.
So when all these things sort of landed on the table at the same time, I said to my husband, “I am taking a step back this time. I know seeing all these major projects that are going to have the exact same timeline and are really going to call on me to be at my strongest, I recognized that from my first book launch. And just from building up my schedule, early on in 2019, that I don't really want to do that in the coming year.So I am going to create a mental health plan that will help guard against burnout. Hopefully it will also help keep me from going too far down that road of feeling exhausted.”
And I really do call it that name very specifically because I think it's so important that we recognize that, as freelance owners, we’re the CEO or the CTO, the chief financial officer, VP of Marketing, and VP of operations. We're everything, right? Even if you have virtual assistants on your team, you are making a massive amount of decisions to drive your business forward on a daily basis. And if you suffer from decision fatigue or just the ongoing pressure that naturally comes from playing too many roles, you need to recognize that your mental health could be affected by that.
I really believe it should be part of your business and your life at all times. Now, a lot of people might feel like, “Well, you know, things aren't that busy right now.” It's actually the perfect time if you start building in your mental health supports and your positive self care now, while you still have the time to do so. And you recognize that as your business grows, you're going to take proactive steps to prevent the business of running your own company to bleed those other things out. Because there's a lot of reasons why this downtime or your mental health plan actually benefits your business.
There's been so many studies done. A lot of them are talked about in various business books that have come out recently. They say things like working beyond 50 or 60 hours a week really does not lead to an improvement in your work quality or your productivity. So there's definitely an upper limit cap. And yet, we hear all of this marketing talk that you need to hustle. We heat that you just need to work really, really hard and you can put in more hours.
I’ve fallen for that right. And I've definitely run my business that way and not been happy with running it that way. So a mental health plan should be in place at all times. But definitely in your busy seasons. If you're onboarding a new client, that's a little difficult. Or if you're starting a new major project. If this is your busy time of the year as a freelancer. Or if you're bringing on your first VA. Because if there's these growth challenges and issues that you're experiencing as a business owner, it is the perfect time to put a mental health plan in place.
I think first of all, your time off is key if you are putting in a lot of hours. Or if you have multiple ventures going at once. Trust me, I can definitely speak about that because I’m running multiple businesses at the same time. And then having outside projects, your time off is critical.
So one of the things that I really put into place strictly with my mental health plan,I have two cell phones. One is a personal cell phone and only my family members and my husband have that phone that phone stays on all the time. The ringer is on all the time. It's essentially like way back in the day what your landline would have been right. So you can always reach me on that cell phone. That phone also has hardly any apps on it. It really is just a very basic phone.
And I've had two cell phones for years. Since maybe the second year of running my business. Because it was driving me crazy when my clients would try to text or call me on my personal phone. So it's definitely not something new, this whole concept of having two phones.
But I had allowed my use of my business phone to get really lax. I was answering emails. I was answering Voxer messages. I was like all the notifications and apps are on my business phone that I used to run my business. And I noticed that my work was starting to bleed over into other hours like early morning, lunchtime, weekends, etc. So one of the things that's part of my mental health plan is physically turning that business phone off at the end of the workday. And if I get that addictive notion to pick it up, I at least have to think carefully about if i really need to turn my business phone on or not.
I'm turning my computer off. And I'm specifically scheduling things on the weekend again, so in the months leading up to and surrounding the book launch, I did a lot of work on the weekends. And some of it, I was excited to do. And other work I just felt like I had to do it. There was no other time to really fit it in, especially as we were moving from one state to another.
But now I'm getting really mindful of my time off. Where is going to be the time that I have relaxation time, creative time, and what fun things can I go do on the weekends. Because working from home can get kind of isolating. You can get a little bit of cabin fever. This is true especially given that I now live in Minnesota and will probably be confined to the house a lot of the time. During the week, it won't be as easy for me to leave and go out and you know something for lunch due to weather. So I'm getting very intentional about my time off and who I allow into that time off. So that's a component of your mental health plan.
So these could be things like yoga therapy, taking that dance class you've always wanted, or regularly scheduled activities that are forms of support. Because they clear your mind. They force you to be outside of business mode.
When you're a business owner, you think about your company all the time. You might even dream about it. When you're taking a shower, you're thinking about a way to grow your company. And then when you're driving, you're thinking about that issue that you had yesterday with a client. So build in your supports in quiet times. You can you can either talk things out with other people. This could be:
It’s very, very important. So how are you going to build those in? So for me, that was building in some outside supports. I have a dance class that I'm going to once a week now and some other things that are built into my schedule. Even date night with my husband, where it's not just for our marriage.
Now these can be so little, but can have such an impact, right? It might be the 10 minutes you spend drinking coffee before you open your computer. And before you get started working, where it's just your time to take some deep breaths.
Working from home can mean wearing super comfortable clothes. For me, my feet are always cold. So it's about having really amazing socks so that I always feel like my feet are super warm. I know that when the weather's good, I will take my dog out for a walk for 10 minutes. Those little things that can be built into my day and don't really have to be necessarily scheduled. But can have a positive impact on mental health and your physical health too. So I wake up and drink three glasses of water immediately. That always makes me feel good. That's such a small thing, but it has positive ripple effects through your physical and mental health.
When you burn out, you start to be really cognizant of what your doing to your body. In fact, burnout often manifests as physical ailments. When I was getting ready to leave my teaching position in Baltimore, my body actually started to shut down. I developed kidney stones. And I sprained my ankle. I felt like I had a sinus infection for four months. My body was really telling me, “Hey, we're collapsing here from working 16 hours a day, and the high level of stress.”
So start to notice what that looks like for you. It could be getting headaches or feeling the compulsion to sleep 15 or 16 hours a day. And it can manifest in so many different ways. But how can exercise and nutrition help that? They really do work.
So for me, I'm an intermittent faster. That means I eat one meal a day. I try to eat really nutrient dense foods and even cooking has become part of my mental health plan. We're trying one of the meal delivery services. So that's three times a week, I don't have to think about grocery shopping or choosing what to eat for dinner. And then the other days of the week, I just cook in the crock pot.
So removing that decision making ability and excess shopping time has been huge for my mental health. I actually really enjoy grocery shopping, but I don't like doing it more than once a week.
So exercise has become really important for me as well. I found that doing 40 to 60 minutes of exercise will tamper a lot of the anxiety that I might wake up with if I'm in a busy season or under a lot of stress. It also helps me sleep. And then, of course, the nutrition feeds into that as well.
Do not be afraid to ask for things from your friends and family. I've asked certain friends and business colleagues to stop saying “Call me anytime.” Because I don't know what to do with that information. I don't want to call them and they’re in the middle of dinner or they’re in some other meeting and I've disrupted them.
So it really helps me when they give me specific times that we can talk. It seems like such a small thing. But I don't want to have the back and forth or even the internal pressure of “Call me anytime.” Like please just like if you want to talk about something specific, let's nail down a time and a place to have that conversation.
You can also ask for support from your friends and family like please don't call me during the workday when I'm doing my work. Or Thursday nights is going to be our family fun night and everyone needs to be on board with this. This is the time that works for everyone's schedule. What support can you get from your friends and family to help you through these times?
So my husband is now in graduate school again, he knows that if he needs help with his citations, or if he needs me to go polish a journal article for him, that's a very simple way that I can support him and make things faster for him. And likewise, I'll call on him and say, “I need to have a company meeting about my dissertation or about this thing I'm doing or I'm getting ready to present at a book festival next week.”
I know I can ask him to be there for the day. Him coming along with me will make it more fun. And he knows that it's really going to make me feel supported if he’s there. So think of the different ways that you can ask for little support from your friends and family. Don't be afraid to ask. The worst that can happen is that someone says no. But that's usually very rare. Especially when you just come out and explain why you're asking for this.
There's been so many studies about how technology is affecting our lives. And there's no doubt that it has ripple effects in many different ways. I've already talked to you about how closing my computer, turning off my phone, and using tools like Boomerang, helped me to get on top of my email. Even sometimes, with my coaching clients, I will just explain that I am only going to be able to check this two or three times today because I'm at a conference. I have very clear boundaries. I'm not going to answer messages on the weekend. You're free to send me them if that's when you're in the zone and send me emails, but just know that I'm not going to read them or respond to them.
So sometimes, I really just want to binge a couple reruns of Big Bang Theory on my iPad. Or The Office or Friends on Netflix. And that actually makes me feel supported in a mental health way. But be aware of when that can be used as a distraction or when you're using that as a coping mechanism. Because it can really be a sign of something bigger that's going on if you like start bingeing at noon and then you find that four or five hours have gone by. That's a sign that there's something else going on. Maybe you don't feel personally connected to your business anymore and you need to take that step back and ask about that.
So limits on technology can be helpful. They can also be things you implement within your family and within your household. How are we going to spend more time together. I've really been testing out how many times I can leave the house without my business cell phone especially if I'm just going to the gym or running an errand. So limits on technology can take so many different forms. But it's really fun to try that and test that out.
What I would love is if you could think about how a mental health plan for your freelance business based on this episode could support you, your company, your family, your physical health, and your emotional health. All too often the stigma around mental health is that we just ignore these issues. We act like people are weak if they admit that they're suffering from anxiety, burnout, stress, and/or depression.
I’m entering what will perhaps be a crazy eight months for my business. Because of book writing, expanding my coaching, potentially working with a new client that would take up a lot of my time, but would really line up with my passion and purpose. And so I'm being proactive about that.
This time, I'm saying how do I best support myself knowing that not only is this going to affect how I feel on a day to day basis, but the work products that I create. When I'm in a better state with reduced anxiety and reduce stress my work products are going to be better. I'm going to affect and impact more people in that way by being intentional about my mental health. So I'd love to hear your ideas on how you're going to take a mental health plan and make it a serious component of your business.
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. Remember, you can always check out additional resources on my website betterbizacademy.com like bingeing past podcast episodes and checking out my massive volume of YouTube videos. Or if you're interested in becoming a freelance writer, take a look at my very first book. Until next time, thanks for listening!
When I first launched my freelance writing business in 2012, it was okay to be a little bit disorganized. It was also okay to not really have one consistent place where I was communicating with clients or keeping track of my research and deadlines. Why? Because I didn't have that many clients at the time.
So whether you're starting right now or you're already in the intermediate stages of your freelance business, it is much easier to build in these strategies and tools now. They'll be there to support you when your business grows. So these are some of my favorite tools for keeping projects and clients organized.
You have to have a way of key keeping track of the projects that have deadlines associated with them. But you also need a place to store where you're going to keep the contact information for people. You need to follow up with people that you've sent proposals to and with someone who asked you to circle back in three months, etc.
So I sort everything that comes into my freelancing world by need. So is this something I need to do? It's an actual project. It's instructions that I need to review and follow up with the client again to ask questions about. Is this something where I need to follow up and see if they've had a chance to review my pitch or proposal? Do I need to ask further information or request a meeting? Or do I need to edit something? Do I need to submit something such as if I've sent in the piece already, but we're waiting to submit the invoice?
So there's lots of different tools out there. And one of the best pieces of advice I can tell you is to always be researching and looking for ways that suit your individual business style. The tools that everyone else uses might not be the right fit for you. So a great example of this is that a lot of academics that I know use Trello for organizing their big academic projects. For me, even though I love Trello, and that's one of the tools I'm going to talk about in this episode, it wasn't right for me to organize my dissertation project. [Check out this related post on why I love Trello for managing digital teams]
So be open to trying something out and giving it a week or two weeks to see whether it could be a fit for you. And then ultimately changing and using that information that you've learned. What did you like about the process that you had? And what could be better?
It is a very simple tool. And it is very affordable at $24 a year the last time that I checked. It really lists out, almost notebook style, the entire days of the week. Now what's cool about this is that you can easily add things into it. And then you just have to click on it for it to strike a line through it and it won't delete right away anything that you struck the line through.
So if you have made a mistake or something, you can go back and fix that. You can also see how much you've done during that day, And you can customize it with sort of a color background.
It's a very simplistic tool, but it's one that I have used for over four years. So every time a project came in, I put whatever I needed to do related to that immediately into this particular website. It was easy to access from my phone as well as from my laptop. And I loved that because it was really all I needed at that point in time.
So I would split things into different projects like research, write, edit, or turn in invoice. I love the simplicity of Teux Deux and how easy it is to capture information. It also ensured that there was much less of a chance that I would forget something and then not be able to meet a deadline as a result of that.
There's a little bit more flexibility with To Do List like add drop down sub tasks and customize things into different projects. Whereas on TeuxDeux, you're just going to have a daily vision of whatever it is that you need to do. So you might have to drag and drop and sort on your own to make things you know work together.
Like all the emails you have to send to sort of lump them next to each other so To Do List is sort of a next level up from the above-mentioned tool when it comes to keeping track of all of the different things you've got on your plate.
As a freelancer, you're wearing many different hats and doing many different things inside your business. So having a place to track all of this marketing, client communications, actual projects is a great way to be able to keep track of that and make sure that you do not lose things.
For quite a while, I also use just a Google document with a table of five different boxes in it to keep track of my to do list. And I did that to sort of plot out how much I was doing per day. I was estimating how many hours or minutes it would take me to do certain tasks. That gave me a week by week view of seeing if I was overloading myself on particular days.
Being familiar with Google Docs and Google Suite can also be very beneficial when pitching yourself to clients. Oddly enough, not everyone you know has Microsoft Word. And it's also sometimes easier to work from the same version of a document.
Google Docs can be beneficial to you if you're a writer or not a writer. Google Docs allows you to see the different changes that are being suggested or have been made in the document so that everyone's working from the same version at the same time. And this is really helpful when you're turning something in. You don't want multiple people editing it on their own and then you have to sort of merge all of those edits together.
So Google Docs is an easy way for people to see, edit, and print material that you have turned in. I use Google Sheets and Google Docs pretty much every single day. So it's a great way to be able to communicate with clients, respond to comments, and make sure that you don't miss particular edits as well. You can also accept all of the changes or suggestions when it's in suggest mode. So that is another great benefit that I find to be easier to use than Microsoft Word.
Other similar tools include Asana and Basecamp. Trello is very visual in comparison to those two. It's best for complicated or advanced projects. I use Trello for the project management of my own virtual team. So we have something like this podcast episode, we’ll move through the process on the Trello board, where we're adding images, making sure that the audio engineer has access to the audio for the show, making sure that we've pulled out quotes for social media, and have the show notes uploaded.
So we often connect back and forth with Dropbox. One of the challenges with Trello is that there are limits on how big the file sizes can be. So a lot of times when we're working with a big file, like a podcast episode that gets uploaded into Dropbox, and then we link to it inside Trello.
And I love Trello because you can see where everyone has contributed to a certain project. You can see when things that are overdue. And you can ask questions there and tag people. So it works really well for advanced or complicated projects.
I have been a Content Manager for several different companies. And I have used Trello for all of those to organize teams of as many as 6 to 15 writers and editors working on the same project. I love the visual aspect of it. And it's very easy to go in and see all of the places where you have been tagged.
Now you can get a free version of Boomerang and it will limit how many of the benefits you can use. I pay for the premium version. It's $5 a month. In my opinion, it's well worth it. There are two different features of Boomerang that I love.
One is called inbox pause. It allows you to stop emails from showing up in your inbox. And it hides them into a secret folder. Yes, you can still get to that secret folder if you need to. Boomerang is a great thing if you're trying to respond to a bunch of messages or work on a very focused project and you don't want to have people who are replying to you filling up your email inbox. Or if you're just trying to reduce the amount of time you spend in your email inbox. This can help break some of that addiction of waiting for the next email to populate.
So inbox pause, you can set it so that you just have to click unpause. It will then deliver all those messages at once to your inbox. Or you can put it on a schedule. So if you check your email three times a day, it can come back into your inbox on a schedule and help break some of the lost time and productivity that so many of us experience due to email.
The other aspect of Boomerang for Gmail that I love is being able to schedule messages to go out at a certain time. And sort of in conjunction with that, send emails to come back into your email inbox later. So I usually never have less than 50 open emails in my inbox at a time. I use Boomerang to the ones that are not urgent.
So if it's something where someone's proposing an idea someone sending in something early, I will Boomerang those to come back into my inbox later. It will remove them from showing up as unread in my email inbox. And then I will decide when they come back in. So if my Friday mornings are my administrative time and someone's sending me administrative questions like password issues or invoices, I will receive that and then immediately Boomerang it to come back on Friday.
So it doesn't seem like that's something I need to deal with right away. The other aspect of that is sending messages later. You can decide when emails go out. So you can schedule it to go out. For example, if you're working on the weekend and don't really want your clients to know that you're in the office on the weekend, you can schedule that email to go out on Monday morning.
You can also set emails to come back to your inbox, if you don't receive a response from the intended party. This can be great as a simple way to track follow up. So if you pitch to somebody over email, they don't respond to you, then you don't want to forget about that. So when you send the email, you can click a button that says send it back to my inbox in two days no matter what, or in two days if I don't get a response. And that can prompt you to make it very easy to respond.So I love Boomerang for Gmail, the free version is great. The $15 a month is well worth it for all of the benefits that you get.
Another program that is similar is called Streak. It's great for those of you who are sending out a lot of pitches over email and want to be able to keep track of when your emails are being opened. So in the free version of HubSpot, you can track activity for up to 200 notifications. So it's going to track a notification every time someone opens your email.
Now this is great for if you send someone a pitch proposal and you can see if they got the email. If it is sitting there sent, you might be wondering why I don't know if my email message went through. And then secondly, it's also helpful to see who's opening your messages. So if you send a pitch or proposal and someone's opened it 17 times, there's something in there that's calling their attention. So it could be a great opportunity for you to follow up.
You don't need to mention that you've tracked the email and that you know, they've opened it so many times. But it can be a great way to pull out from all the pitches or proposals that you're sending which ones deserve a response.
So you'd want to follow up with those people who are opening your email a lot. There may be something there that is really making them interested or they have further questions. So it's a perfect opportunity, while you know that you are top of mind for them, to be able to follow up. So I've used the paid version of HubSpot email tracking for one to two months.
It's about $50 a month for the basic upgrade into the premium version. And I did that when I was pitching literary agents. So I was sending a ton of emails. I wanted to make sure my emails were being read.
I also use that in conjunction with Boomerang for Gmail, because each literary agent had different guidelines for how long to give them space to read your material before following up. So someone say if it's been six weeks, and you haven't heard from us, you can follow up. So when I would send those emails, I would use Boomerang as well as the HubSpot extension that you can add into your Gmail account. So I would send it with the tracking so I could see that they opened it. And then I would send it to Boomerang back into my inbox if it had been six weeks and I hadn't heard from them to do the follow up.
So the free version is probably sufficient for most people. I think you can get a lot of benefits out of the free version. So definitely check into that. It's a very easy extension that you can connect to your Gmail account.
If you don't want to use something like Boomerang or HubSpot because that feels too technical or you think you'd need the paid version. You can use Google calendar for adding follow up reminders. I love using Google Calendar in connection with an email scheduling or with a scheduling tool that I use called Calendly.
I like Calendly because rather than having emails going back and forth, it makes it easy for them to book a time that is on your schedule. And you can set it up where it sends a calendar invitation immediately to their email address after they've booked a time. So they're going to get reminders and other information about speaking with you.
You can also use Google calendar for adding follow up reminders. I've used Google calendar to create my ideal week. So I don't know if you know that you can go into calendars and set up different ones to show up on your schedule at the same time.
So on the left side, inside Google Calendar, it says my calendars, I've got a goal week calendar. And I've got my regular calendar. You can merge those together so you see all of the things that you have coming up. But Google Calendar makes it so easy to see what your week ahead is looking like or to determine if you're traveling, which weeks look kind of slow, where you might be able to easily get out of the office and do some different things, or take some time off. So Google Calendar just makes that so easy.
Because what works for me might not work as well for you. So test things out. And if you don't love something about a software or tool, figure out how you can tweak it. So go into YouTube and look for tutorials and other information where you can learn more about it. Or ask in entrepreneur groups.You can say, “Hey, this is what I love and don't love about you know Boomerang for Gmail. Does anyone else know of another program that is similar, where I can still get some of these benefits without some of the downsides?”
So this has been Episode 83. I'd love to hear what other strategies, tools, and pieces of software are essential for you and your freelance business. What are you using to scale up and to be able to get things done efficiently and never let any of the different projects slip through the cracks? As always, thanks for tuning in. You can send topic ideas or questions to info at betterbizacademy.com.
It's time for another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. And thanks for finding me here. Whether you're in my facebook group, Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura, discovered my freelance services on LinkedIn, or found me through my website betterbizacademy.com, I'm thrilled that you're here. It's my mission to make freelancing something that you enjoy doing, Something that fits into the rest of your life so that you can optimize your business and your goals as much as possible and feel really confident about how you approach your business and how you choose to scale it.
Yes, even for those advanced freelancers. I'd argue that test projects are more important for advanced freelancers than even beginners because we have to be choosy about who we work with. And test projects are an excellent opportunity to see if the client likes you. And if you like the client.
One common mistake that a lot of freelancers make is to think about this as only a “one way” transaction of trying to prove yourself to the client and show just how great you are so that they're thrilled to potentially work with you on a bigger project or on retainer. But do not neglect to think about how freelance test projects actually help you decide whether or not to work with this person.
This is especially true if I've done a phone call with somebody and I'm not entirely sure that they're going to be the right fit for me or the way that I do business. Now, they might be thinking of it as, “Oh, this is great. Like we get to work together. And that way, I'm not committed long term if I don't like this particular freelancer.” But I'm thinking about it from another perspective. I want to see their style of communication. And I want to see if the project is even worth my time. That way I have an easy out if this is not the right fit for me.
In fact, I've done several test projects. Most recently over this past summer that just did not work out. They didn’t work out not because the client was unhappy, but because I didn't want to continue working with them. And that saved me a lot of headaches or that feeling of guilt that I had to continue working with someone.
Now it might seem crazy to you. And you might be thinking, “If somebody offers me a three month contract and I don't know if I like working for them or not, I should just take it because that's three months of income that's very predictable.” I can understand feeling that way. But it can be much more beneficial to know that you're working with a nightmare client on a short term limited basis before agreeing to work with them for a longer period of time.
And it has the added bonus of being a great sales technique of showing how wonderful you are to work with. So a client that's on the fence or maybe thinks that your rates are a little too high, could be persuaded into working with you just based on the experience that you provide in test projects.
First they are small and manageable. When you define a test project, it's usually either something that the client has specified very clearly in writing or it's something that you propose. So a virtual assistant, for example, might take on a one-time project to create a social media calendar for the month. Or perhaps provide five hours of their services to see whether or not it's a fit.
As a writer, I often take on test projects that involve me working on one small blog or piece of content. I am writing for them with very clear expectations about how long that project is going to be, how much it's going to cost them, etc. It keeps things small and manageable and really does guard against problems like “scope creep”, because I'm specifically saying, “Let's work together on a trial basis or for a test project. Here's what that test project looks like.”
Now your rates might be higher or different for the test project. Because you're not working on retainer, that's yet another reason for the client to consider deciding to work with you over the long run. They might realize that they will get some sort of a discount for purchasing ongoing services, but that your one time trial rate, because you have to do extra things like getting to know the client, reviewing their guidelines and expectations, and only to deliver a one time project might be different.
With that in mind, though, keep the test project small and manageable. Don't take on something that's going to require 20 hours worth of your work. Try to make it meaningful for what you're hoping to accomplish.
Sure, this is your chance to step up to the plate and show the client everything that you have to offer. And of course, you want to do a good job. You want to show them why it's so wonderful working with you. So aspects beyond the quality of your work are really important when delivering test project.
The work should be delivered on time. You should make it easy for the client to work with you. And you should ask all questions at the outset of the project. But it's a trial on your side as well. It gives you a chance to learn things like:
I'll give you a great example here. I recently worked with a client that had a decent rate per piece. But the amount of work required, they wanted me to listen to phone calls with the client. They wanted me to review long brand expectations. They had big content guidelines to look at. And they also wanted three rounds of revisions. So that ended up not making sense.
And I'm definitely glad that I knew that information working on a test project rather than committing to working with them on an ongoing basis. So that's what you're looking for. as a freelancer. You're trying to provide them with a lot of great evidence of why they should continue to work with you beyond the trial project should you want to do so. But you're also looking to see is this someone I can see myself working with long term.
The client learns what it's like to work with you. And when something is outside the scope of reason. So if you're working on a test project, and you turn in a piece, and they wait two weeks to review it, and then demand that you incorporate changes within 12 hours. That's a good thing for you to see in the test project. It also gives you a chance to say, “Okay, this isn't really what I was expecting and working together. Normally, I need a couple of days to be able to implement revisions. And I haven't been able to block this into my schedule, because I haven't heard from you for two weeks.” So you might still be able to salvage that relationship by telling them why it's a problem. And if they're totally unreasonable, you can wrap up the project and not ever work with them again.
Now, they might not understand the reasons why you're declining to work with them if you decide that's what's best for you. I like to keep it simple and generic sharing at the end of a test projects that I don't intend to continue working with them. I explain that it's simply not the right fit for me or my business. You want to allow them to find someone who might be a better fit for them.
Your client might think that just the very fact that they're offering you money in and of itself should encourage you to take the project on an ongoing basis or to take more work from them. But that's not always the case. As freelancers we get to decide what we will and won't do and who we will and won't work with.
So one of the important aspects of this could be that you have a project minimum. Maybe you did great on the test project and the client is thrilled with the work you did, but their project on an ongoing basis is only $200 a month. That might be far too small for you to stick with and to continue making an effort to communicate with them and keep things organized. The client might not understand it because they're thinking, “Hey, it's an extra $200 a month. And I paid you on time. I showed I was easy to work with.” But if that project is too small for you to fit into your schedule and requires too much work for that $200, you might choose to pass after the test project. So just be prepared to rely on that line of saying this isn't a good fit for your business model at this point in time. That's a really good one to come back to in these situations.
First of all, narrow it down to one small piece of what they want done or a one week trial. I recently took on a client where it didn't make sense to do a per piece rate. It really needed to be hourly because of the kind of work he was requesting. So I said, “What if we work together for one weeka and I think that a reasonable outcome from that would be a document that looks like this. And then from there, we'll decide whether or not to continue working together.”
That helps scale it down. So my client felt more confident about partnering with me and knew that his losses would be limited if the project were a disaster. So even if I turned out not to be the right fit for him, I still gave him a heads up on the type of output he could expect to receive during that one week. And he could cut his losses at that point and run and still not have anything. He'd still have something substantial that he could use, but he wouldn't be locked into working with me on an ongoing basis before knowing it was a fit. So try to narrow it down to one small piece of what the person wants done or a one week trial.
To circle back to my example of the client that I started with. I said, “I'm not going to work any more than eight hours on your project that will give you a chance to review what I've completed to give me a better idea of the scope of this project overall. And what allows you to decide whether or not to continue.” So he felt confident in knowing kind of what that budget was going to be at the beginning. And I felt comfortable that I wasn't agreeing to something that would be far more substantial and too involved for me to really know what was going on.
So when you're working on a project that could become very complicated or involve a lot of hours, the test project is a really good chance to get grounded in it. And to understand, “Okay, here's what I think will be necessary to get this done.” Imagine someone asks you to edit their book, taking on a small piece of that, such as a number of pages, or one chapter will also tell you how much time is likely to be involved in editing the rest of the book because you're looking at one small piece of the bigger puzzle. So try to clarify what that cap will be and what it will cause.
Clients love knowing upfront that they're not going to have to pay more than a certain amount for a piece or for a set number of hours of work. Because part of their hesitation and working with you might be that they don't know what it's going to cost them. So it's much easier to come back and say, “Hey, I've edited five pages of this book. It took me this many hours. Based on what you've told me about the final word count, I’d estimate that for me to edit the whole thing it would be this amount and it would take me this long.” So it helps the client to decide if you're the right fit or not, while also showcasing the value in what you provided in that smaller piece.
Finally, explain to the client that this is a limited engagement and that you'll circle back after the fact. I like to use terms like “I'm happy to help you out with this short term project to see if we're a fit.” It says that I'm not committing to working with you long term. I don't know if I have enough information yet to decide whether we should continue working together. So this is a test project that goes both ways, because I'm trying to decide if I want to continue working with you as well. Using those terms and referencing them to the client while also positioning that this is a value add for them because they get to test you out and see the quality of your work often puts people at ease. And usually if you can step up to the plate and deliver a really amazing test project, and the client is happy and you're happy, it is easier to convert them into working on retainer.
Test projects can be an extremely valuable way to grow your business. And to avoid working with clients on a long term basis who just aren't the right fit for you. I love using test projects for advanced freelancers because 9 times out of 10 you already have the skills and ability to make the client thrilled. But it's about you deciding if this a partnership you want to take on while also showing that amazing value and talent that you have.
So I'd love for you to take from this episode how to use test projects and to think about how you can use them with clients who are kind of on the fence. Maybe aren't ready to sign a retainer yet! You can really increase your conversions by using test projects as this tool.
Thanks for listening to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast. If this episode was helpful for you, I'd love to help other freelancers find my podcast and listen to it as well. Please consider signing into Apple podcast and leaving me a review in there on iTunes. It really helps the iTunes algorithm show this podcast and its episodes to other people. Thanks again.
The ideal set point and type of clients and projects that you work on will vary from one freelancer to another. So it's a really great, customized way to build a business that works for you. It's why there's no one size fits all solution for a lot of the issues that advanced freelancers face.
Now, when you're first starting your business, there is general advice that applies to helping you get established find clients, and stay consistent with your marketing. But as your business grows, your needs might also change and evolve. One of the common sticking points for a lot of advanced freelancers is scheduling.
So in this episode, we're going to talk a little bit about some of my favorite scheduling tips. But you've got to keep in mind that what it looks like for you might be different. I've probably changed my schedule at least a dozen times across the course of owning a freelancing business. Even as that company has evolved, as well into incorporating things like public speaking, writing a book, or coaching other freelancers, that has meant that my freelancing schedule has had to change as well.
I balanced my freelance business for a year while also holding down a day job. So that meant that nights, weekends, and early mornings were the only times I could freelance. When I jumped full time into freelancing, one of the first things that I did was basically try to work as normal a day as possible. So eight to nine hours a day of doing everything that was required within my freelance business. And a lot of what helps make that scheduling transition relatively effective was the fact that I had been doing it for an entire year on the side of another job and knew about how much time it was going to take me to complete various things in my business.
So I knew how much time I needed to spend marketing. I knew what proportion of my time I need to dedicate to client projects. And I simply had to make some general adjustments to now allow for a whole work day. Now, what's interesting, and I've heard this from a lot of other advanced freelancers, is that we're actually more effective with our time when we have a day job. I don't know why that is. But I have found that to be true.
I've been freelancing full time for six years at the time of recording this podcast. But I definitely had better time management skills when I worked another job because I was limited, very limited, with my hours. So there was no time to get into my head, there was no time to question things.
So it became more difficult to schedule as my business grew and as I added more components to my business as well. So what you're “fully booked point” and what your schedule looks like will be different from other freelancers. Someone who's only able to work 10 hours a week can still be an advanced freelancer because perhaps those 10 hours are really focused and truly leveraging that freelancers abilities.
And what you think fully booked is, will also be very individual. So for me, that's no more than 20 hours a week of freelance client work in order to balance the other projects that I have going on. For someone else that could be 30 or 40 hours. So that's a really good starting point to begin with. You need to know what your fully booked point is. What is the maximum amount of time that you want to be spending, creating and delivering client projects?
So you've got to keep that in the back of your mind too. Maybe you don't want to do any more than 30 hours of client work per week. But you aren't going to neglect marketing, of course. So you might have to say, “Okay, well, what am I going to fit in five or seven hours of marketing, so I'm really working closer to 35 or 37 hours per week?” So my scheduling tips for advanced freelancers, these are just different ideas that you could potentially try as your business grows.
This is time when you're doing things other than working on your business. It could be hobbies, creative projects, like writing a book. You could be diving into a different creative talent or hobby that you'd like to have. But maybe you're brand new to journaling or meditation. I kind of consider as creative time too, because it really sets the tone for what the rest of your day and even week is going to look like.
So start by blocking out creative time. This is your non business time when you're not even doing things like listening to business podcasts, or reading books. This is truly your creative time when you're able to express yourself. And maybe that's only 20 or 30 minutes per day. But that should be built into your schedule first. Because guess what? If you don't put it in there at the outset, it is far too easy to overlook it and not have any of it in there at all.
I'm a huge fan of batching your work as a freelancer. And that includes putting all like minded activities into the same sectors or blocks of your day as possible. I do not market when I'm working on client projects or when I am in a period of doing phone calls or responding to my clients over Voxer. My marketing time is separate. It is individual.. And it is focused time when I am only working on that particular task. And blocking that out and thinking about how that's different from the time when you're working on client projects is very important. Because they're different ideas. They're different concepts. And we don't want to try to ask our brain to be doing multiple things at the same time.
I often see freelancers trying to do this because maybe it worked when you first started your business. You'd have several different tasks open and you're doing marketing on LinkedIn, you're reviewing job boards, and then you're also like half working on this piece or project for a client. Making these separate helps you be much more effective with the time that you are focused. So being distracted and pulled in different directions can really slow you down and impede your progress and productivity. So make that marketing time separate from your work time. Block out an hour or even 30 minutes per day, when you're specifically doing marketing and not working on things for clients or answering clients.
This is another personalized aspect of scheduling for advanced freelancers. Some people work better in the afternoons or at night. That is not me. I am never as productive during those times as I am first thing in the morning. So since we have the benefit of being freelancers and setting up our own schedule, adjust your work hours to reflect what works for you.
All it takes is letting your clients know what to expect. I tell my clients don't expect responses or edits from me after 3pm. I'm just not doing it. I'm normally not even in the office, I'm in the office earlier than most people, because I do typically work pretty early mornings when I am most focused. But that means I can get a lot more work done in 4 focused hours then trying to say, “Yeah, let me work the traditional nine to five.” Even though that's not my most focused period, I'll actually get the same or even less done, trying to take that approach of working someone else's hours.
So allow your body's natural rhythm and ability to help dictate when you're going to work the most. If you're really inspired and focused from 7 to 10pm at night, use that time for your brainstorming, outlining of projects, and thinking about how you're going to write your next blog for marketing purposes.
By doing this I’m holding other days sacred for client work or focused periods of work when I'm doing things like marketing, brainstorming new classes, and responding in depth to some of my clients. This has helped tremendously, because there's not those phone calls that disrupt and sort of punctuate the day and throw me off from what I was doing. So I've done everything from no phone calls on Mondays to Fridays to phone calls only on Thursdays to everything in between.
You need some level of flexibility to be able to speak to your clients. I find that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays are the days when most people are in the office. Holidays tend not to fall on those days. So it's easier to schedule phone calls during that time. I try to put as many of my calls on Wednesdays as possible, so that I can have Mondays and Fridays as my more creative days when I'm doing in depth focused work for me growing my business and other projects. And then Tuesday through Thursday are pretty heavy client days. So I keep those open for phone calls, consultations, and responding to pitches and follow ups. I keep those very client focused because that works.
Email sometimes is the bane of my existence. It never seems to go below 50 messages that I need to review and respond to. It can also become very addictive and non productive to be in your email inbox a lot. I used a tool called Rescue Time back in the day, and discovered that I was spending 12 hours a week at that point in time on my inbox. Now very few of those hours were making me money or were working on things that were imperative for an immediate response. For more tips on dealing with email, check out this blog post.
I try to check my email no more than three times per day. And I use a tool called Boomerang to push off things that are not imminent. So if someone emails me and says, “Hey, I'd love to collaborate with you.” If I don't need to respond to that immediately, I'm going to push it off towards one of those Mondays or Fridays, when I'm doing a lot more catch up work and non client specific things. And I'll respond to all of those together. So I will try to set them to come back all at the same time.
So let me explain a little bit more about what that looks like. If I get 10 emails in the morning, then some of them are from people who want to collaborate on things for freelancers and some are from prospective clients. Some are things I need to follow up with immediately. I want to push off the non imminent things. So I tell Boomerang send the collaboration requests back into my email on Friday at 9am. I'll take a look at all of those together, review them all, and respond together. I might immediately respond to the things that require my attention. And then I might have other things set up to Boomerang back into my inbox a Friday at 10am. Like perhaps all of my follow ups from everyone that I've pitched or written proposals for.
So that way I've got similar emails coming back into my inbox at a similar time. So Friday is my email catch up day. Maybe at 8:00, I'm getting those collaboration requests. At 10:00, a new wave of the things I boomeranged for follow ups have come back in. And that way it doesn't seem overwhelming or get confusing because they're showing up as new in my inbox during that time.
So many of us are completely guilty of not taking vacation. We kind of fall into this trap of thinking, “Oh, well, I can take a vacation any time. So I'm not going to plan it in advance.” One thing that I have found really increases the chances of you truly taking that vacation, enjoying it, and giving your clients plenty of notice that it's coming is putting that on the calendar at least three months in advance.
Let's say that I close my office for the two weeks around Christmas. I'm going to need to put reminders in my schedule, either Boomerang or on my calendar, around mid November to tell my clients, “Hey, your work is going to have to be turned in early. Edit requests need to be turned in by this date. The last time I can schedule phone calls is X day.” I'm going to let them know that about a month in advance whenever I can.
So if I wait until it's the first of December, and then realize I don't have enough lead time to get caught up on work that might otherwise be delivered. At the second half of December, I might not be able to accomplish that goal of letting my clients know that a vacation is coming and I'll just end up overwhelmed and behind
Most of my freelance clients are on retainer. So that means I am working ahead. If you're in another phase of your business where you're drumming up business, you're going to want to make sure your follow ups and your automated marketing efforts to go out while you're gone are still present and there. So it's still will take at least two to three weeks to lay that groundwork and work ahead. If I know I have to turn in two weeks of blogs for the second part of December in advance, I've got to kind of backdate and reverse engineer everything.
So then in November, I pick those topics, get them approved by the client, I draft them, edit them, send them in early, and all those different processes. I kind of have to back up and make sure that it doesn't fall into the normal schedule so I can truly take that time off. So that can really help you when you look ahead to the future and know:
So I'd love to know your favorite scheduling tips that might help you to grow your business more effectively. These are some of my favorites. But remember, it's going to look different for you. My best recommendation is to play around with your schedule, stick with your new guidelines for two weeks, and see if it works for you. If you find it unbearable then some changes are needed. But it's always good to test things out and try switching things around to be more effective. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast.
This episode specifically is for those of you who are thinking about scaling your freelance business to six figures. I recognize that that's not necessarily everyone. Everyone has different goals for their freelance business. For you, it might make sense just to do this on a part time basis. Or maybe you have a day job you love that you don't want to leave. That's perfectly fine, but I wanted to introduce you to the concept that six figure freelancers, multi-six figure freelancers, and business owners that think a little bit differently. Many of them recognize that what got them to the six figure level or close to it will not be the same thing that takes them to the next level. So they made that navigational change pretty early on in their business to be successful with where they're at.
Increasingly six figure freelancing is becoming more common. In fact, it's estimated that 1 out of 5 freelancers is already there according to the State of Independence in America study in 2018. But I think that number should grow even more. Many people are leaving full time jobs to pursue freelancing and have a whole new perspective on work.
They don't just try to implement strategy after strategy and hope that it works. They're engaged in mindset habits that keep them positive like reading books or listening to uplifting podcasts, journaling, yoga, massage, exercise, and more. Six figure freelancers know that getting their mindset straight is almost more important than the work and some days even more important.
Need a recommendation for a great mindset book to start with? Check out the Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.
They know that no one client job proposal, pitch, or phone call defines them. Instead they approach their opportunity calls with clients with confidence rather than desperation. And trust me, that can make a world of difference when you're on the phone with a potential client.
They don't promise the sun, the moon, and the stars. Instead they know their value and they ask for it. Even though they know that it means many of their potential clients will turn them down. You will always be too expensive for some people. Just be prepared for that six figure. Freelancers know their value and recognize that they shouldn't position themselves as a person who can do it all. This often means that you end up in an employee type scenario where you are indeed doing it all for a particular client.
Unless you love juggling multiple things at the same time and being responsible for many different aspects of a client's marketing strategy, as a freelancer, niching down or focusing on the things that you do best is a great way to stay.
They don't engage in drama with friends, family, or anyone else online. We've all probably been in some of those Facebook groups or online spaces where drama rules the day. I've seen it far too often. It's part of the reason that I have the stringent rules in my own Facebook group because I don't want it to become just one more place on the internet where people are arguing with one another and shaming people. Or trying to jump and pile on and and be trolls, right?
So six figure freelancers are way too busy being booked and doing those positive mindset practices to help scale their business to be worried about dealing with naysayers. So if you are the type that gets totally locked into that comment someone made five days ago, that makes you feel really poorly about yourself, that's a mindset habit that you can start to work on and recognize that anyone who kind of goes that direction with the constant negativity is only pulling you away from business opportunities.
Rather than saying, I offer it all now. You can still be a multi-passionate entrepreneur and freelancer and have several different things going on at once. But you don't want to say, here are the 50 services that I can provide you with. Most six figure freelancers have no more than four or five things that they provide to a client at any one time. Often they become an expert in their niche or a kind of project in which they do really, really well. They further become an expert in that niche or industry, which makes it easier to convert and sell and collect testimonials that convert other clients like that.
It's a very common mistake I see freelancers make. They assume that they can just stop when they're fully booked. Six figure freelancers do not stop or give up when they are booked. In fact, they use that to their advantage. They establish waiting lists. They apply urgency and scarcity to converting new clients, but they don't make any excuses about finding their marketing avenues with the highest conversions. You aren't really going to see six figure freelancers that have 16 different ways in which they market and they are waking up every day trying to do all the things. Instead they've said, you know what, my two highest converting channels are X and Y. That's where I'm really going to put most of my effort.
They don't accept calls with tire kickers. When I get on a phone call with someone who is not serious about hiring or has an extremely low budget and just wants to argue with me specifically about pricing, I get off that phone call as soon as possible. I was recently on a phone call with someone who wanted to hire me to go straight to their book. He threw out at the beginning of the conversation that his budget was $8,500 for a six month project. That it required multiple interviews with him and you know, basically formatting the book to be self-published. And it included the creation of a marketing plan. I honestly thought it was a joke when he said it. It really came across like he had no clue what goes into producing a book.
So about six minutes into the call after he was starting to go off into a tangent. I just very clearly said I'm not the right person for this job. It sounds like you have some phone calls set up with someone else who might be a better fit. I wish you luck. So getting off the phone with tire kickers, trying to weed and screen those people out before you even talk to them is key.
I had a sample project recently where the client took six weeks to pay for one blog. They also never responded to any of my comments in the Google document when they made edits that made no sense or asked for information that had nothing to do with the blog post itself. So when the client said that they didn't think they'd be moving forward with me, huge relief, right? You also have the power to decide after bad sample projects when to say no. That particular client just beat me to the punch that time.
Six figure freelancers seek ideal clients only and often have a client or monthly minimum. They won't take on a project where the scope of work is expected to be one thing per month or where there's a flat fee that the client is paying, but that also includes hours and hours of phone calls and back and forth.
And if you haven't listened to the previous episode about hiring a virtual assistant, this would be a great opportunity to go back to that and learn more about when it's the right time to start outsourcing to a virtual assistant on your team. Six figure freelancers recognize that they need support from a variety of different professionals, including an accountant, perhaps a team of freelance subcontractors, a virtual assistant, or even a coach. And they'll see these professionals as investments rather than as an expense and realize that they cannot do everything within a given day or do everything well. So they'll outsource what doesn't fit in their zone of genius and keep the rest.
They're not forever blaming their lack of success or the problems in their company on someone else. They're recognizing the role that they played in that process so they don't blame marketing tools, virtual assistants, or anyone else for their lack of success. Instead, successful freelancers always look to see where they can improve and then create a solid team surrounding them to help them get better and accomplish even more.
Other freelancers and mastermind groups are a great place to start so that you can have a support system to be at your side as you navigate and grow your freelance business. Finding other people who get what you do, who encounter the same types of challenges and obstacles, and can be a sounding board when you have questions and concerns can be instrumental for helping you scale. These lifelong learners are your six figure freelancers who also read and learn from experts.
They listen to podcasts in their industry, right? That's probably you if you're listening to this podcast. They seek out expertise from other people. They see people about two to three steps ahead of them and learn from those people as much as they can. You have to recognize that you cannot do everything by yourself. You shouldn't want to do that either. So having a team of people around you who might have more knowledge in a specific area or who can help you navigate some of the trickier aspects of working as a freelancer, especially as your business grows, can give you a lot of peace of mind and help to normalize the situation.
Oftentimes, our friends and family members don't really understand what we're doing as freelancers. They don't recognize how our lives are different. Or that we're not just sitting at home all day watching Netflix. They don’t know what it really takes to run a freelance business. So build that community around you. Even if you're a remote worker at home.
Now, six figure freelancers have an eye towards the future. Freelancing might not be their end goal and that's okay. They have an underlying desire to scale their company and to build their business around their life and not the other way around. Six-figure freelancers don't have that perspective of “Let's just keep adding and adding and adding income and revenue to my business, especially if it's also adding complexity and I'm getting increasingly less happy with the process of running a business.” They're constantly testing things and thinking about how to do things differently, how to make their business work more effectively for them.
Now, if you've been listening and are thinking, “I don't know if growing a six-figure freelance business is right for me.” That's okay! You can still keep many of these tips in mind and effectively scale your freelance business as much as possible in the timeframe that you have and with the individual goals that you have. The more that you start thinking about where you're going to be with the next step in your freelance business, the easier it will be to build your confidence and get to that point.
Thanks as always for tuning in to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. Remember, you can get lots of free resources on my website, including past episodes of this podcast, hundreds of YouTube videos, and great blogs to help point you in the right direction.
One of the most popular topics that comes up with intermediate and advanced freelancers pertains to hiring a Virtual Assistant. These freelancers are curious and want to know when should they hire a VA? They are also curious about how do they know it's time to bring a VA into their business? Another piece of the puzzle is knowing how any freelancer can properly leverage this person.
I have lots of different things to say about hiring a VA. There's no way I can cover it all in one brief podcast episode. So this episode is going to be focused mostly on when it is time to hire a virtual assistant in your freelance business. We are not going to dive too much into the process of doing it. So this is really designed for you if you don't have a virtual assistant yet in your freelance business. It’s also for you if you may have hired one in the past and didn't have a good experience. This episode is also for you if you've never worked with a virtual assistant before to get those creative juices flowing about the different types of things that you might be able to use a virtual assistant for.
Now being fully booked is also a sign that your rates are too low and that they need to be increased. But when you're fully booked and your plate cannot handle any more projects on it, you have officially capped out your revenue. At this point in your business, you cannot take on any other projects and you cannot realistically expect your business to grow.
When you have filled every single hour of every day and you're racing against the clock it is time to hire a VA. You may even be finding at the end of the day that you're barely getting your deadlines done. You might even be even falling a little bit behind. So when you are fully booked, you can’t afford to be spending time on tasks like:
These tasks are taking up valuable space in your calendar. It's also draining your energy and pulling you away from those processes in your business where it could be handled by somebody else. It’s also unlikely that these kinds of tasks you’d outsource to a virtual assistant are in your own zone of genius.
But this person handles tasks digitally and does them for you either by when they're being paid by the hour, being paid by retainer, or per project. You don't have to start in a big way to bring in a virtual assistant. You can start with just a couple of hours per week with inexperienced VA, even a new VA if you're willing to train them on the process. But being fully booked is that first key sign that you have too much going on and you're actually at risk of dropping one of the balls in your business and starting to make mistakes or miss deadlines.
Deciding what to outsource to your VA is important- learn about the risks of overloading your VA in this blog post.
A lot of us don't really know and tend to underestimate how much time we are dedicating to administrative tasks. So what I encourage you to do is to track your time for a full week. You can do it loosely in a notebook or you can use a tool like toggle that's toggle.com which will help you set up different categories and labels for your tasks. And then you can figure out what you're spending your time on. There's also another great tool called rescue time, which will essentially analyze what you're doing on a weekly basis and send you reports as well as red flags of key issues.
So one of the things that really opened my eyes to needing to delegate and outsource more was when rescue time sent me a report about spending 12 hours a week in my email inbox. That's not something that I want to do. I don't think that's something that anyone wants to do. But it was my first real wake up call that I was going to have to do things differently. To find a way to get on top of my inbox management,I had to hire somebody to help me with it and implement some different systems and tools.
So if you've tracked your time using toggle or some other way and you're finding that you're spending more than five hours a week in administrative tasks, you are doing too much of those tasks. You are limiting your revenue and your business growth potential. So if more than five hours as being dedicated to that, it's time to take a step back and say, “What of these things can I outsource to someone else?”
A lot of people and freelancers are nervous about passing that on to someone else in their business. That's probably the last thing you'll outsource to somebody that you really trust and have been working with for a while. You can still leverage a lot more of your time by choosing to outsource something else.
For me, social media is a huge drain on my time. I don't enjoy doing it. It's far too easy to go down the rabbit hole with social media and end up looking at things that weren't the reason I hopped on there. Right? We've all done that. You might get on social media to schedule something and then you find yourself distracted. I'm always looking for ways to more efficiently use my time.
I have had an extension installed on my internet browser for probably four or five years now called kill the news feed. When I sign in from any of my computers, I cannot see any of the news feed that makes it so tempting to scroll. You still see all of the rest of Facebook. You can navigate to your groups, you can view your notifications, and you can even click on your own page to get there and update things. But that has been instrumental in saving my time.
When I did that, I also realized that I didn't love doing social media. So I searched for a virtual assistant who could help by planning and scheduling posts to keep those types of things off my plate. So I saw that I was spending more than five hours a week on social media. I was spending more than five hours a week in admin. Those are perfect things to outsource to a virtual assistant. It’s a great place to get started.
Now you don't owe it to any virtual assistant to pay them forever. You can work out your own payment terms and maybe bring them on for a couple of hours per week or for a limited engagement to start. But you want to be making relatively consistent revenue to where you don't feel like your not able to pay them.
You don't want to set up a situation where you bring this person into your business and then you're not able to pay them several weeks or months in. I've seen this happen before and it can be really frustrating for the virtual assistant who essentially pulls time out of their schedule to help you figure out how to get everything organized. They do all of the onboarding work. They get to know you and your clients and the different industries that you work in. And then if you're not making consistent enough revenue for whatever reason, it gets very frustrating for the VA because they essentially have to step right back out of being able to work with you.
That's not a situation that anyone wants. So do you need to be making 5,000 or $10,000 a month to justify a VA? Not necessarily, but I would recommend consistently making at least $3,000 so that you can dedicate a portion,possibly $200 or $300 a month to start. And you can scale that as your business grows, but you want to make sure you have that money to pay your VA..
Consistent revenue is also a sign that your business is poised for growth. So that is your signal to start thinking more clearly about how you dedicate your time with what you do on a daily basis within your business. So the more you can be critical of how you're currently spending your time, how you divide that up, and how you decide if this is something you could potentially outsource is an excellent way to feel more confident about how you go through with this different with this process.
And that's when you're ready to hand over control. Hiring a VA does not mean that you have to hand over complete control of your business, but it does mean that you have to take a step back. You have to decide how you can remove yourself from some of the processes of your business. Ultimately, this is going to help you learn to be more effective. It's going to help your business scale. You're going to get more of your time back that you can spend.as you want. But at the end of the day, you are still going to have to give up some level of control.
You're going to have to share password information with somebody who is new to your business. That's always going to be nerve wracking. It's going to be nerve wracking to hire someone who's going to do something that is facing the front of your business. So talking with potential clients etc, but that will always be there, right? Because you've put so much energy and time into establishing your business and it's just scary to kind of hand that over to another person.
But it's also something that is really important to think about. There's a lot of different benefits that you can get from outsourcing to a virtual assistant and knowing how you're going to leverage that Think about what the benefits are for you and your business and even your clients. It will give you a lot of peace of mind.
Now there's many out there, some of the most common that a freelancer might be hiring are:
They might design your sales pages, opt in pages, landing pages, and edit your graphics for social media. A content manager is someone who is helping you to write press releases, newsletters, directory submissions, or creating, editing or posting your blogs on your behalf. I have a VA on my team who helps to make sure that all of the content that I create is ready to be published live.
Now, the category of general virtual assistant can also include social media VAs. You might sometimes find social media VA's working outside of the general VA term because they won't take on generalized projects. They'll specifically do social media. But general VAs are where most freelancers are going to start when hiring their very first project working with their very first virtual assistant.
General VAs can do things like data entry, preparing PowerPoint presentations, light transcribing of audio and video files, creating templates for documents, creating forms, online research, sending client invoices, basic bookkeeping, putting together training materials, personal errands, doing research, or finding hotel/travel reservations for you. They may also be able to add images and tags to blog posts. They are acting somewhat like a receptionist, managing your calendar, creating your social media accounts, or uploading your videos on YouTube so you can see how there's a lot of different tasks that fall under that umbrella of general virtual assistant.
For a freelancer, you have to hone in on what it is you do best that only you can do in you business that is writing for clients and that is specifically speaking to clients. Outside of that, there's a lot of tasks that you could do, but I don't really need to do. That's why it's a good idea to be able to outsource it to someone else on you team.
It changes based on the projects that I have going. Some of my VA's are with me for the long run and have been with me for years. I have VA's that work on my YouTube channel, on my podcast and it's corresponding show notes, VA's that work on social media and a VA that runs one of my other businesses for me completely and prepares all of my PowerPoints. And I have someone who posts my blogs for me and post a lot of my LinkedIn articles as well. So there's all kinds of different ways that you can leverage virtual assistants.
Freelance writers, in particular, might even consider using a virtual assistant to do some research. That's a great way to still keep integrity with your writing process, but still ensuring that you're making the most of all the time that you have.
What you do with that time is up to you. You might take more of a break and reduce your working hours. You might scale and spend some of that time trying to bring in new clients. That's really up to you. Deciding why you're going to hire your VA is going to be important. That way you can measure your success. How will you know when a relationship with the VA is successful? When you have two or three more hours a week to plan and do certain things.
So if you've been thinking about hiring a virtual assistant and you're sort of stuck and don't know what to do next, a future episode, we'll go into some more detail about the process of hiring a VA and what you can specifically expect. This is your teaser to start considering how you might be able to leverage a VA in your own freelance business. I'll tell you that I do not know any six-figure freelancer who does not use at least one virtual assistant. So if that's where you are aspiring to go, if you're looking to make more money and get more of your time back, hiring a VA should be the next thing on your radar.
Thanks as always, for tuning in, if you want to check out the podcast in iTunes and listen to some of the past episodes, please consider leaving a review for the show. It helps other people find the Advanced Freelancing podcast. You can also always join my Facebook group, Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura, which is where you will get the most free trainings and access to the best tools and strategies for scaling your business.
Today I'm taking a step back to talk about what I think are some of the most profitable and in-demand freelance side hustles to consider. Now, if you're an advanced freelancer, which you probably are just for checking out this podcast, you probably already know your niche. You may have been working in a freelance side hustle or even scaled it up to a full-time career, but this episode will still be helpful for you because you might be thinking that it's time for a change.
You might be interested in making a transition and pivoting to offering a different type of services, and this is what I love about freelancing. When we don't love doing something anymore, it's okay to incorporate another type of freelancing as a side hustle. It can be a great way to test out whether or not this is something that you're interested in. Stay tuned because if you listen to this entire episode, you're going to get a link to be able to sign up for my full PDF that goes into great detail on the top 25 most in-demand freelancing side hustles to consider, the general work that they do, and then the software that you need to know for each type of freelance side hustle.
It's a great overview of what freelancing looks like today and takes on some of those popular myths about freelancing that just are not true for the way that digital creatives are working online today.
Now when you're listening to this episode, we are closing in on the last couple months of 2019, but what I've included in this episode and in the freebie PDF you can get and sign up for at the end of the episode, are what I think some of the most in demand freelance side hustles are and are likely to continue to be throughout 2020. This freebie is going to benefit you is you are new to freelancing and you're thinking:
● Which direction do I go?
● How do I decide what type of background I have?
● How do I know?
It’s also going to benefit you if you're an established freelancer looking for something new. It's always a good idea to have your finger on the pulse of freelancing. If you're like me, you're looking to pivot every so often because you might just get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. You might get overwhelmed. You might be looking for something that's a little bit more of a challenge. So the freelance side hustle you started with might be scaled down over time.
Now, that was definitely true for me. I've been a freelance writer since 2012 so about seven years at the time you're listening to this episode. I've really loved creating blogs and email copy for a lot of my clients. But several years ago, I started to feel like I'd gone as far as I could go with blog writing. That's when I started to branch out into doing other types of freelance side hustling.
So I still had this core stable of freelance writing clients that I was providing services for, but I wanted to expand my skill set. I didn't want to be locked into a box. I also wanted to be able to see what other things I might like. It was important to me to see what other things were in demand.
I did more editing work rather than just freelance writing. I did project management work. I also started educating myself on new things like influencer outreach and writing email copy. Why? Because it allowed me to have some different skill sets to rely on and decide if I liked it better or if this made me more versatile.
I've also worked with a lot of freelancers. Whether it was through my courses or one on one strategy sessions and coaching for freelancers. So I know what a lot of other people are doing as well and where they're getting results. That's why this episode is designed to get you to think about some of the different types of freelance side hustles that are out there that might appeal to you.
Then you can grab that PDF at the end, maybe even share the link with a friend who's thinking about getting started with freelancing and doesn’t know where to even start. You may have a friend that wants to get started freelancing, but doesn’t even know what a freelancer is. They may be wondering what type of freelancer they could be based on their background.
Now there's a new social media app or tool developed practically every day. Social media gets to be very overwhelming for business owners. So it's probably not surprising to you that it's a great way to specialize as a virtual assistant. You will see VA's who call themselves social media managers and people who don't do VA work, call themselves social media managers, but you should definitely know tools that are used to schedule social media as well as your social media platforms themselves, like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also specialize in a certain type of social media management tool or type to further niche down.
Graphic designers don't have to work at agencies alone or for a company as the core graphic designer. Many of them are selling and sharing their skills online. They are sharing in these marketplaces where people are hiring for specific gigs, like creating a logo or creating PDFs. I work with a graphic designer on retainer because it's great to have somebody else who knows your brand style and colors to create all of your images.
If you having the training in this, you can certainly make a lot of money doing this as a side hustle. People typically charge hourly rates for it. Specialists can charge somewhere between $50 and $100 an hour. So if you have that background or training, perhaps you did it for another company, this could be a great way to specialize and start doing a side hustle for companies that aren't really in a position to bring in a full-time employee but still need help.
If you love numbers and details, bookkeepers do a lot of tasks to help online and offline. Businesses stay organized with their finances. You'll usually see going rates starting no less than $20 an hour and going all the way up to $60 an hour for more advanced reconciliation and financial planning issues. Everything from payroll management to checking and credit card statements to forecasting are the types of tasks that a bookkeeper typically does.
Now another way that a lot of people break into freelance virtual work is as a customer service specialist. Lots of companies today use virtual assistants and customer service specialists in an online capacity. They know tools like Zen desk or they manage emails. They make sure that customers are essentially happy and that there are established protocols and procedures for helping customers with common questions like being locked out of their account or needing a refund. These types of side hustles are very in demand.
Freelancers who have this skill set from college or their own self-education are developers. Web developers are familiar with plugins, frameworks, website platforms, and tools like HTML, PHP and Java charging upwards of $50 an hour. If you know multiple coding languages, you can even push your income as a freelance side hustler up to a hundred dollars an hour as a developer. Developers are in huge demand today.
Essentially 3D modelers create computer graphics that are used in video games, 3D printing animation, and special effects. There's lots of different tools like AutoCAD and Sketch Up that developers who have 3D modeling experience use.I am seeing more and more jobs requesting these 3D modelers as well.
If you love creating, building and designing websites, the more you know about user experiences and how to make a website appealing and easy to navigate could serve as the foundation for your freelance side hustle. As a website builder or designer, more experienced designers charge well over $60 an hour or expensive retainer packages. I strongly recommend two tools to check out would be WordPress and Squarespace is this appeals to you.
Have people always told you that you have a pleasing voice? Perhaps working as a freelance voice over artist is a great way to leverage your skills and make some extra income. Putting together a voice reel is easier than ever. Thanks to online tools like Audacity. Check out some of your competition before jumping in as a voiceover artists. There's lots of VO artists on places like Upwork and Fiverr where you can get a sense of the different ways they set out their samples due to the drive and online marketing.
If you have training and experience working with search engine marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising tools to create comprehensive and successful marketing campaigns. Many small and medium sized businesses need help with this. They don't really want to hire someone in house. Or they might not yet have the budget to do it, but they could use someone on a freelance basis. And most marketing freelancers are gonna charge an average of around $50 an hour.
So if you have experience from a day job that you're looking to transfer over, this is a great one to consider. Do you love data science, like using machine learning to generate new products, creating charts, or generating data infrastructures? A data scientists can charge upwards of $100 an hour when they know tools like Apache, Spark, and Linux. Check that out if that appeals to you. Creating raw data in spreadsheets and organizing it and developing key takeaways from that data are some of the most popular things that these freelancers do.
Now, one that's emerged on the market in recent years but is booming, you're listening to one right now, is a podcast producer. So a podcast manager or producer can do a variety of activities, but sometimes they'll even specialized down to just doing audio editing. But you've also got podcasts managers doing post-production work up generating podcasts, interviews, coordinating them, and overseeing the production of a podcast. This is a very popular way to specialize today. If you're an audio engineer and even writers can specialize as a podcast show notes writer.
Now, network engineers and IT security protocol implementation experts often find many opportunities to work online today. Whether it's computer gaming and building software products or running an entire network control system, engineers definitely have a place in the gig economy.
Now, we briefly talked about audio editing before. Video and audio editors are getting more demand because there's such a drive in the creation of online content like courses. So whether it's storyboarding, project management, live action video, putting together landing pages and funnels and sequences with videos and audio, this is a great way to start a side hustle.
If you already know how to use tools like Audacity, Camtasia, and more advanced tools, a really creative way to get started generating buzz for someone else's business is to freelance as a publicity expert. It's your job to determine what channels are right for publicizing the services and products of your client. So you think about different ways to promote them to a broader audience and bring in more potential customers. Newer freelancers working in publicity charge around $25 an hour, but seasoned experts pull in a lot more.
If you've always wanted to be a teacher, but need a remote and flexible work schedule, being a tutor in terms of foreign language, math, science, ESL, or standardized test prep is a great way to break into the freelance marketplace and get some experience.
Do you love figuring out what makes websites rank in search engines like Google? Getting some additional training and picking up knowledge from podcasts, books, and online courses might pave the way for you to work as an SEO specialist. SEO specialists look at things like the navigational structure of a site, the optimization of a site to maximize page speed, and how to resolve conflicts inside these sites and make them more beneficial for the client in terms of ranking in search engines.
A brand strategist is a great way to fuse marketing knowledge with graphic design awareness. Some of the tools you might want to have in your skill set includes search engine optimization, writing and copywriting, and public relations expertise. As a brand strategist, another tool to check out is working as a translator.
Translators often have experience in at least two or three languages and ensure that the content is translated properly given the language and grammar specifics of the language that it's going to. So freelance translators often start out somewhere between #15 to $30 hourly. Then you can scale it up.
One freelance side hustle that I love because I've worked in it before is as a content or a project manager. Their job is to set together the strategy for implementing content across a broad variety of channels. This can even include recruiting, hiring and managing freelancers as well. This is very popular with those companies that leverage blogs and similar tools to promote their content. If you are thinking about becoming a project manager, you should be organized and enjoy working with others.
If you love listening to audio and translating that into text, a transcriptionist might be a great way for you to break in as a freelance side hustle. Simply put, transcriptionists listen to recorded audio or video and type it out into written form. Many of them charge between $25 and $35 an hour. I have worked with a transcriptionist and transcription tools for years and it’s been very helpful for speeding up my process!
Of course, I love the freelance side hustle idea of working as a writer. Freelance writers do a variety of tasks like creating website pages, sales copy, newsletters, emails, brochures, blogs, product descriptions and more. This gives writers a great deal of versatility and experience working in content marketing. And if you're curious about how to get started as a freelance writer, check out my book called “How to Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business”, which goes into all the details of how to make it work as a freelance writer.
If you've worked in administrative positions before and are looking to transition into a side hustle or pick up a couple of extra hours a week, serving as a virtual assistant to an entrepreneur is a great way to do this. You might be doing things like email organization, customer service, and calendar management.
To get started building on these previous ideas of working with language as a writer, editors and proofreaders can pick up multiple opportunities to work for academics. Those creating content and people who are in a school setting, so even college students and graduate students might consider hiring an editor or proofreader. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the various styles like AP and Chicago and to check out further information about the level of depth you're going to get into while editing.
I have a great course on how to become a freelance editor and some of the ways to set yourself up for success with that by taking a look at some of the pieces that are already created and giving your client a good understanding of the scope that you work on when completing freelance editing projects.
This has been a great overview of what I think are some of the most in-demand forms of freelance side hustling. If you'd like to pick up the PDF to learn more about the software that you should know more about, what these freelancers specifically do, and the typical hourly rates they charge. Check out BIT.LY/sidehustlestarter.
I’m stepping out of the box of talking about advanced freelancing for this particular episode because I have had a number of people reach out to me about the process of marketing a book. I recently wrapped up the launch of my first book “How to Start Your Own Freelancing Business” published by Entrepreneur Press in July 2019.
If you have been following me, you already know this is the book I wish I had when I started out as a freelance writer. And that is what I kept in mind when I was writing this book. I don’t really talk about the craft of writing, but I do talk about how to set yourself up for success working with clients, what you need to know about marketing, what typical days look like, etc.
This book was published very quickly when you think about the traditional timeline of publishing. So that gave me a very condensed timeline to come up with a plan for launching and marketing this book. In this episode, I’m going to dive into the “behind the scenes” of my book launch and what it really takes to market a book.
Having a solid book launch and a marketing plan in place is very important no matter which direction you go with publishing. This is something you should be thinking about ideally before you even start to write a book. Why? Because it matters! The marketing of the book actually takes up a substantial amount of time after the content is written. But it can take a long time to put that plan in place.
It’s because it directly affects sales. The more you can drive up the hype and excitement about this coming attraction, the more likely people are going to be to preorder your book and/or order it after it launches. Makes sense, right? I’ve interacted with lots of authors who have self-published a book who have said, “Hey, I just started thinking about marketing. My book came out 3 months ago.” Now, this is not to say you can’t still market a book after it’s been published. However, the ideal time is before it comes out.
My book came out in July 2019, but I really started thinking about marketing in December. When you write a nonfiction book, your book is sales based on the proposal. So your marketing plan is part of that proposal. Essentially you are trying to communicate to publishers:
● Here is what I intend to do to market the book.
● Things you have already done to establish a platform and a brand.
In the world of nonfiction books, the platform is an important word you’re going to hear over and over again. Essentially, it’s how you are connected to all the different people in your world that are going to buy this book. So this could be your social media numbers, your email list subscribers, the number of people you have in your online courses, etc. All of this makes up your platform.
This is a way for publishers to evaluate if you already have an audience ready and willing to buy your book. So the platform is one of the most important things that publishers look at when they are deciding if they want to work with you on a nonfiction book. It’s still important in the fiction world, but less important.
You see a lot of nonfiction authors who are professional speakers, CEOS, or online business gurus who have already built a business and have recognition for that business. Nonfiction publishers see these types of people as less of a risk because they have already built up recognition and an audience who will be willing to buy their books.
Publishers care about book launch marketing. There is a myth that if you get a publisher or self publish a book all you have to do is put it out there and people will buy it. Which isn’t the case at all. You have to do just as much work, if not more, on the marketing end of things for a book to actually sell. There are A LOT of books out there. If you want your book to actually sell you have to put in time and effort on the marketing! Any savvy author out there is going to put in that time on marketing their book.
It started with the development of the book launch/marketing plan I had in my proposal. But of course, it went much beyond that as well. I started tweaking and using it in a lot of different ways after the book was written because I knew more about what I could say the book was truly about. So you need a plan about 6 months out. You will be tired at the end of it, but it’s worth it. You should have a lot to do if you’ve done your work.
One of the things that really helped me was having a launch team, I had an author’s assistant who helped me plan out the launch. I also did a call with a book launch strategist who walked me through the different components of my marketing plan. We went over what I had already typed up and how my TedX Talks were going to work in conjunction with my launch. She even reviewed some of my creative ideas.
I did 2 TedX Talks in the month leading up to my book launch. I created a book trailer. I have appeared or will appear on 35 podcasts that I pitched. I did some guest blogging, I did some traditional media responses using HARO. I also reached out to all of my contacts in different industries to let them know the book was coming out. I found collaborations in diff organizations that had a similar audience to mine. I offered a giveaway to their audience. I worked with an influencer who advertised my book to her audience as well. And of course, I leveraged my launch team.
My launch team was a core set of volunteers who committed to buy the book when it came out. They agreed to submit a review. They shared things on social media. This was helpful for me because you kind of get tired of talking about your own book. Also, you can say all you want about your own book, but it won’t matter as much as what someone else has to say about your book. When you can rely on a launch team like this it’s huge because social proof speaks volumes.
You have to consider things like traditional media responses, working with a publicist, etc. Working with a publicist is risky and expensive for several different reasons. Because of this I actually DIYed most of my book launch.
So for my launch plan, I built out a calendar of exactly when I wanted certain things to drop. This included:
● Book trailer to drop exactly 30 days before the book launch.
● Have my launch team primed and ready to go exactly 30 days before the book launch.
● Make sure we have a lot of sales on the day the book became available.
So I did a lot of sharing in my personal network. I built a launch team. I wrote about the book on LinkedIn. I reached out to a lot of different people on what they could do to help me with this launch. I did giveaways. I went Live on other people’s Facebook pages.... I also had the book pre-order link in my email signature for about 5 months leading up to it. It just had a picture of the book and it said buy my first book.
It was harder to do the marketing than it was to write the book. I’ve been writing for years. But all of the different moving pieces of the marketing really paid off because the book was ranking very well on Amazon the first week it was up. It was really great to see this after all of that hard work. I do recommend you give yourself NO LESS than 3 months and that’s only if you have your marketing plan laid out and you are just picking the components of it.
We also had a preorder giveaway. So I had a landing page on my website where people who preordered could send a copy of their receipt and they would get a special set of bonuses. I also scheduled conferences the summer the book was coming out so that I could talk about it and sell some copies lives and sign them and build buzz. I also gave anyone who bought it live access to the special set of bonuses.
It’s very important to get reviews on Amazon. Why? Because it helps other people decide if they want to purchase the book. I kind of assumed that people would just go back and leave a review after they read the book. But that’s not necessarily the case. I learned that you really need a more personal approach and reach out to people who have purchased it. You need to personally ask them to leave a review. Reviews are really key for Amazon to see that people are not only buying the book but they are actually reading it and liking it.
So this is something I am still actively working on a little over a month after the book has come out. I’m still personally reaching out to people who have purchased the book. I am finding creative ways to keep the buzz about the book going.
The first 90 days are important in Amazon’s algorithm. Why? Because you want to get your book in the suggestion section of Amazon. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that says “Customers who bought this also bought…”. I want my book to be associated with other books on writing or books in a similar genre. I want this to happen so that people who don’t necessarily don’t know me personally have a chance to see my book and possibly buy it.
This has a lot of similarities with much of the teaching that I do around running your freelance business too. To be successful in freelancing or in marketing a book you have to have your finger on the pulse of marketing. You have to be doing something every day or every week that is moving your marketing efforts forward.
You lose a lot if you don’t already have a marketing plan in place before you launch. It’s really a lot harder to try to do this after the launch to generate the buzz you need to sell your book. So if you are self publishing think about how much lead time you need to have to create this marketing plan and be able to implement it around the time the book comes out. That date is very important. You want to be able to show Amazon and other retailers where the book is listed. You want to show them The buzz and hype around it and the excitement that coincides with that date. So it’s a lot harder if you are looking back 3-6 months later and try to start marketing your book because you have already lost some traction by not already having a marketing plan in place.
From the moment I signed the contract for my book “How to Start Your Own Freelance Business”, I knew the publishing date was going to be July. So I reverse engineered all of my marketing plans and ideas thinking back about when I wanted certain things to drop. I thought about how I could use various components of my marketing to get maximum leverage out of them.
Like in the month before the book came out I wanted to drop the book trailer because it would generate more excitement than if it was launched 4 months before the book came out. I also didn’t want my launch team to sign up too early because then they would sign up and forget about it. It would be really hard to keep people engaged and do their posting on their social media and leave reviews.
This shows consistency. It shows that there is still interest in your book after the initial release. You also have to make sure you don’t frontload your marketing plan too much. How are you going to keep the excitement going a month or two months after the book has been published? What other components of your marketing plan can be activated at this point after it has been published?
So as you can see there is a lot of work that went into planning a book launch. It was very tiring. Towards the end, I was happy that I had planned ahead because I was also balancing my freelance business and watching the launch go live. I was nervously tracking everything. I was very thankful in the summer when the book dropped that I had done a lot of the leg work in advance. Why? Because I don’t know that a lot of the marketing that I did would have come to fruition if I hadn’t planned it months in advance.
It was kind of surreal when the book came out because I had spent so much time thinking about the marketing and doing outreach and putting this plan together that it was like “WOW, THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY HERE!” It has been this thing that I have been talking about, thinking about, and strategizing for so so long and now it’s here. Now to keep the buzz going. Having the energy and strategy to do that was largely due to the fact I had done so much planning in advance.
So I strongly recommend if you are thinking about publishing a book to think about your marketing now. It contributes to your platform and the likelihood you will be able to work with a traditional publisher. Even if you are self-publishing platform is just as important because you are doing all of the marketing legwork to get that book off the ground. You will thank yourself later when you have done the work in advance.
To get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more. Of course, I would be honored if you would also leave a review of my book!
I have to get on my soapbox and talk about a topic that’s very important as a freelancer. It’s something that most freelancers probably already know, but it’s still something I feel needs to be discussed. Why? Because it’s so important to protect yourself.
Variety, different sources of income, and different sources of marketing are all critically important for a freelancer. We never want to put all our eggs in one basket. However, it happens all too often with freelancers. It happens when a freelancer finds something that really works from them, but they don’t see the challenges of having just one client or one form of marketing.
These two things can set you up for failure in a big way. Think about when you had a traditional job. It can be nerve wracking to work as an employee because if you are an at-will employee, at any point in time your employer can terminate your job. I know because it’s happened to me.
When I started freelancing as a side hustle, I knew that I didn’t want to have just one client. I knew from experience that it can be so scary thinking the rug could be pulled out from under you at any given time. I knew I needed to diversify.
So here I was pitching to different clients with the mindset that if I had 5 different clients if I lost one it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Which was true. But then I had a colleague point something out to me that really made sense.
If I was only using one form of marketing to do my pitches, in my case it was Upwork, what happens if that website crashes and you can’t pitch anymore? This was a huge wake up call to me because I had built my entire business around something that’s called “digital sharecropping”. You see other businesses doing this today too.
As a freelancer, you never want to have one platform be your sole source of leads. This is why I expanded from Upwork into cold pitching into using LinkedIn. I didn’t want to be dependent on any one thing. Having a variety of different marketing methods is definitely very important for freelancers. Once you are established and know which methods convert the highest, that’s where you will want to put your emphasis in your marketing.
As a new freelancer, you’re going to be trying a lot of different marketing methods all at one time. As time goes on you’re going to have to look at the data of which of those methods is converting the highest for you. You then can pick 2-3 methods to focus on for your core marketing methods to get you the best possible result.
You don’t have to feel like you need to do all of the things forever. But having variety is good. What if your Facebook Group gets shut down and you could no longer use that? What would you use to market and bring in clients? Variety is truly the spice of life in this case. It’s important to be building your market in several places in case something like this would happen. Never stop marketing and never fully rely on one source of marketing.
Digital Sharecropping is essentially building your business’s success on the reliance of some online tools, websites, software, or other person who runs an online company. When you are reliant on platforms or tools to convert offers or bring you business, everything is contingent on that site continuing to run exactly as it always has. If something changes dramatically this could potentially put you out of business.
As online business owners, we are always evolving and adapting. So sometimes a site like Upwork tries out a new algorithm and it gives me the ability to try it out and tweak my business to adapt to it. But that doesn’t always mean it is a complete and total overhaul of Upwork. However, if they were to do a complete overhaul, it could be catastrophic for me if I hadn’t built up my business elsewhere.
Don’t be a digital sharecropper who has built everything on something staying the exact way that it is. In the online world, we know that things are constantly changing. Variety is important so that you can pull potential leads from multiple places when these changes take place. If you are listening to this, take this as an opportunity to branch out and explore other platforms to start building your business.
The best time to try something new is when there are no stakes are attached. If you are a person who is completely reliant on one platform to bring you all your leads, then branch out and try something new. Start using another platform and build your business and see how it goes. You don’t want to have to wait until a catastrophe happens and it’s necessary. Do it now so that you are prepared IN CASE something happens.
A great platform to try is LinkedIn. I actually just dropped my newest course about using LinkedIn and 3 step process that has brought consistent high quality leads my way. So I’m glad I started my LinkedIn strategy when I didn’t really need it because by the time I was able to master it, I was able to move further and further away from using only Upwork to source my leads.
One of the biggest ways you can set yourself up for failure is by only marketing on one platform in one way. Why? Because if you try something new, you may become a master at it. And what if you original form of marketing goes bankrupt. You are already marketing yourself in more than one place and are prepared if something happens. The best time to try something new is now!
Having only one client as your sole source or bulk of your income is so dangerous. If this is you, please consider adding multiple smaller contracts to your business. If the BIG CLIENT terminates your contract or goes out of business, your entire source of income just goes away if you only have that one client. Once again, diversify. There are so many things that can happen in the freelance business. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Have a backup plan in place. Be marketing to other clients and bring on some smaller clients. (For more about contracts in freelance projects, please check out this related episode.)
If you all of a sudden lose your work with that one client and you have paused your marketing, this could be devastating to your business. It could be a setback for several ways. You need to always be marketing and you need to have several clients. We have to be prepared for the possibility that things could shift and change.
Because we are in control of so much in our business, we have to take ownership of everything that we do. You make choices every single day about who to work with, what type of work you want to do, how long to work with people and what to charge. You need to have an “insurance plan” in place. This means having more than one client and more than one marketing method.
It’s very dangerous to have only one client and only one marketing method. Avoid putting yourself in the tough spot of having to rebuild your business on the fly. Make sure you have at least one month of expenses saved up so that if this does happen, you are covered for a bit financially and it gives you time to build it back up.
Having more than one client means that if something happens your income won’t go all the way down to zero dollars just like that. It’s important that you realize I keep talking about having more than one client and more than one marketing method together because I often see issues arise with both of these things. People come to me who only had the one big client and only using one marketing method and both have went belly up so to speak.
Having alternative sources of marketing and income are instrumental for your success. There are a lot of statements out there of how very wealthy people will have 5-7 streams of income at one time. There is a reason for that. They aren’t hedging their bets on ONE THING to continue bringing in money. Even if I got rid of my coaching and freelancing business, I still have a steady stream of income coming in from other things like speaking, my books, etc.
Starting when you don’t need to start it is the best time to start it because the risk is very low. You can figure out a strategy that can save you in moments of crisis, but can actually help you when you are thinking about if you need to make a shift in your business. This gives you a great deal of peace of mind. I want you to avoid being in a bad situation. For more advice about things that can help you launch your freelance career successfully, check out this related episode on the five things I wish I’d known when I started.
So if you are currently thinking I have this one client and I have this one marketing method, but how do I break out of it then we need to talk. This is something I help freelancers with all the time. I do this through 1:1 strategy sessions where we dive into your business for a specific period of time and talk about what is working, what isn’t, and where you can go from here. I am able to get a good understanding of where you are at and where you want to go in your business. If you are interested in learning more about these 1:1 sessions go to laurateachesyou.com and you can see the options for these sessions. I’d love to work with you!
Have you ever had the OPPOSITE of what I call a “King Midas Day” or even week in your freelancing business? What I mean is it feels like nothing is going to work. You feel like a failure. It feels like your business is imploding right before your eyes! Does this sound familiar? Well if you are having that kind of day or week I want to encourage you to take a step back! Get out of your house! Most times this will give you some space and allow you to gain a fresh perspective to come back and be able to troubleshoot. Sometimes it really is an off day and other times it’s our own mindset that is holding us back.
It blows my mind when I see posts in a Facebook group with people saying they had sent 100s of pitches and had a website up for a long time, but still hadn’t gotten their first client. In my early days of coaching freelance writers, I had a girl come to me who had literally sent out 200 pitches on Upwork. And not one of those had ever reached out to her or decided to work with her. This was shocking to me!
In my own business, if I am doing something that isn’t converting I am either going to figure out if this is the right fit for me. Or is there someone out there that knows this system/software better than me that I can hire or learn from to make this convert? If this is happening to you, please don’t wait until you have sent 100 pitches or until you have spent 2 years on Upwork and have zero results before you reach out to someone who can help you.
When I first started trying to pitch to speak at TedX events, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I submitted several applications and all of them were rejected. Now, I thought my idea was pretty good, but obviously it wasn’t resonating. I had no idea about some of the TINIEST mistakes I was making on the application process until I hired a coach who had successfully landed four TedX talks on his own.
Even though we had to work at it for a while and get through some rejections, it ended up with 5 different invitations to give TedX Talks. It’s always good to find someone who has been down the path before rather than just trying to make things work on your own. This process can be really frustrating to go through it on your own.
The first one is really important because it’s your mindset! When you are in a funk and you have a roster of clients that you don’t like to work with, you will subconsciously hold yourself back from pitching. Why? Because your mind is saying, “Oh, we don’t want any more clients like that. If working and bringing on freelance clients means being as frustrated as I have been with this group of clients then...NO THANKS! I’m not pitching.”
I have seen freelancers be held back by this. The hard part is they don’t even realize it. It’s kind of a subconscious battle that is keeping them from being able to effectively pitch. It became an easy to “back burner” the process of pitching because they were stuck in this mindset of not marketing at all because of their current clients. You need to know if this is something that is potentially holding you back. Think about these things:
None of the other elements I’m going to tell you to check are going to work if you don’t have the right mindset. So first things first, evaluate and work on your mindset.
Once we have figured out whether or not your mindset, there are some other things that you can check. Now, If you have figured out that it’s your mindset and you have a disaster client, now is the time to figure out a few things like:
Whatever samples you are providing to your prospective clients speak volumes. And you cannot afford to have samples that don’t accurately depict your quality of work. A lot of times, we forget to update your samples. If you are anything like me you probably look back at your samples and cringe! Why? Because you have gotten better at your craft since you created them. You don’t want to be sending out samples that isn’t putting your best foot forward. You should be sending out samples that is your best quality work. Samples should be the work that you are most proud of. The samples should always reflect where you are at right now, not where you were at 6 months ago. Check your samples for the following:
Samples work in conjunction with the second thing you should check...your pitch. And more often than not, if something isn’t working with your marketing it is either your samples or your pitch. One or both of these things is off for your marketing method or your specific market. If nothing is converting and you have checked your mindset, the next thing to consider is the pitch and the samples. This is where I recommend you put your focus. Invest in having someone proofread the material or give you some feedback. You can reach out in Facebook groups and such so you can figure out what isn’t working. If your pitch and samples aren’t working they can slam the door of opportunity shut with clients who otherwise would have been perfect clients for you. You may not even realize this! It’s often these little things that can be tweaked and that leads to conversions. Little things can make a HUGE difference. ASK FOR HELP!
It’s amazing to me how many creatives send out samples and pitches that are not their best work. If you are a creative person, whether it’s a writer or designer, your work needs to be spot on and error free. That’s very important! It would be nice if clients would look beyond that, but they don’t! I speak from a professional standpoint where I have been hired as a Content Manager and they client has told me to not hire anyone who has grammar mistakes in their pitch. So, as you can see, even the littlest mistakes matter!
Are you marketing to the wrong people? Are you marketing to people that only work with agencies? Are you marketing to organizations that don’t have the money to pay you? Are you marketing to people on LinkedIn but that’s not where “your people” are? Check your market after you have checked your mindset, pitch, and samples.
This is another great opportunity to engage with someone else in the freelance world and ask for their expertise on whether or not your market could be off.
Newsflash...most business is done in the follow through stages. I am always surprised when I hear from freelancers that they sent out pitches and never hear from anyone. I always ask them if they followed through. When they say that they never heard from them so they didn’t follow through it blows my mind. Most business does NOT come from sending a pitch and getting a signed contract in reply. There is a nurturing process that most clients have to go through. So if you aren’t following up with prospective clients, you are leaving business AND MONEY on the table. Check your follow through by considering things like this:
You even have to follow up after the proposal phase.
“A lot of what we do as freelancers is selling and being consistent with that selling process.”- Laura Briggs
Think about someone who tried to sell you something you didn’t want, understand, or even feel like you needed. A great example is a life insurance agent. It’s easy to push off something like this and say you didn’t want to do it. It’s probably because this person followed up with you multiple times before you decided to go through with it and get everything set up.
Be aware of how important follow up is. If you are not doing it, it wouldn't surprise me if you aren’t bringing in a lot of business. Clients need hand holding. Yes we live in an amazing digital age where you don’t have to see your clients in person if you odn’t want to. But that also means we need to make our clients comfortable about hiring essentially a stranger over the internet. We need to break down those barriers and make them feel trusting of us. The follow up is where you do this.
Follow up also shows persistence. Some clients love this. You’d be amazed by how many freelancers DON’T follow up! Sometimes it can even get your foot in the door ahead of someone else JUST BECAUSE YOU FOLLOWED UP SO MANY TIMES. Having a CRM system is a great way to keep track of all this.
Through Hubspot you can get up to 200 open email notifications for free. AFter that you have to pay. Anyone who is pitching and using cold email this can be helpful because you can see when people open your message so it will remind you to go back and FOLLOW UP!
Following up is so easy! It doesn’t take much time. It’s a quick reach out to the client to see if they have reviewed what you sent. It’s also a chance to showcase a little more personality. Carve out time and send your follow ups out in batches based on the pitches you sent a few days to a week before. Being the person that follows up can significantly increase your conversions.
Sometimes your pricing is just off. Across the board you will find all kinds of different pricing. Never base your pricing on anyone else’s numbers. This is a huge reason why I never discuss pricing anywhere I’m talking about freelancing. There are literally so many variables that go into determining pricing there is no one size fits all answer. Whatever you charge you will have clients that think that it’s cheap and a great deal. And you will have clients that think it’s too expensive.
Because you are going to hit that at every level, it’s about finding a price that works for you that still allows you to be competitive in the market. You can do a lot of harm to yourself by having pricing that is too low. I have had clients turn me down because he thought I was too cheap. I have also had more people turn me down because I was priced too high. I never take it personally though. It’s never worth burning the bridge because those people may come back to you or even refer people to you once they know the baseline of your pricing. You simple just say OKAY. I have had people turn me down because they thought my pricing was too high only to come back to me when their business was doing a little bit better.
These are the types of things that go into the consideration of your pricing. A lot of people think it’s their pricing when in fact it’s their pitch or proposal. But it is worth considering whether there is something that is off with your pricing. The best way to know this is if people are straight up telling you that you are too expensive or don’t know what it is included in that cost. This leads to the client just shutting down.
There is a reason why we check the pricing last. More than likely, the reason you aren’t converting is because of one of the other things I listed.
There is nothing wrong with you as a business owner or creative if something isn’t converting in your marketing cycle. Most of us are new at this. We are figuring things out as we go along and making our best guess at how to run our business. So there is no shame in saying this isn’t working. You just have to look at what you can get better at, what you can learn, what you can change in your business to make it better. This can actually liberate you from the stress of taking it so personally.
Learning is something that can be so empowering in your business. It can also help with your mindset towards your business. As business owners we have to be adaptable and constantly evolving to see where the market is going. There is a tremendous amount of intelligence in stepping back and seeing what isn't working and figuring out how to adapt to change it.
**Remember I have an awesome FB GROUP where you can get tons of free training and information and network with other rockstar freelancers. You can find me by searching for Mastering Your Freelance Life with Laura.
Welcome to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast. Today’s topic is getting through a freelancing dry spell. I don’t care what anyone says, one of the most important things to know as a freelancer is when you might encounter a dry spell. It’s key for every freelancer to know how to prepare yourself for it. You need to have a plan to address what to do when things get slow. It can happen to any of us.
It actually happened to me recently. I let go of 2 clients and at the same time, another client had to pause all of their marketing operations. This was a SIGNIFICANT loss in income. BUT...even in these moments you have the opportunity to think about how you going to overcome it. Hopefully, you have done some of the leg work in advance to be able to help protect yourself through this dry spell.
It can be very frustrating for a freelancer to bounce around month to month with different levels of income. The more you can scale steadily to where you feel confident in your business the more comfortable you can be with business decisions. Business decisions like how much you are going to pay yourself and how much of your revenue is going to go back into your business.
Freelancing dry spells DO happen. In fact, that’s a big reason WHY I stayed at my day job for 13 months after launching my freelance writing side hustle. I had no idea if there were going to be dry spells. I had an eye-opening experience with this because I came in as a teacher. Now, where I taught you could decide to have your salary distributed over the 12 months of the year. This means you would get paid less monthly, but would still get paid over the summer break. Or you could just get paid during the 9 months of the school year. A lot of the teachers had to pick up other income streams over the summer.
I have been freelancing for 7 years and have seen a trend where every year August is slow. It’s a hard time to market. I have also noticed from around December 15-January 15 is a slow period as well. There are several reasons for this. People are distracted during these times of the year whether it’s for back to school, last-minute vacations, holiday vacations, or even just waiting for the year to close out so they can start fresh.
It’s important to track your numbers in a spreadsheet. This will let you know what months are not your best months. Example: Let’s say May isn’t my best month. So I’m going to use that knowledge going forward and try to book as much work as possible in April. OR… Maybe February is my busiest month so I’m going to take some of the money I earn in February and put it aside in an emergency. It’s so important for you as a freelancer to have an emergency fund. WHY? Well, for example, if you only have one client and you have to fire that client or something happens where you aren’t working with them anymore, where is your income going to come from? This is where I encourage freelancers to not put all their eggs in one basket.
So now you are in a freelancing dry spell. I am going to assume that you have already been saving a portion of all the income you make for expenses, taxes, retirement, family emergency fund, and 1 month of expense for your freelancer emergency fund. If you haven’t already set up that emergency fund, do so now.
So in this dead zone, it’s harder to drum up work. I don’t know about you, I don’t like to throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks. I’m not going to send out 100 pitches the week before Christmas because they most likely aren’t going to get seen. So why not send those inspired pitches in the beginning of the year when people are thinking about their goals. It’s much easier to market during this time. This is also true for September after people have gotten their kids back to school.
These downtimes are a great chance to update your work samples! Check out: How to Get Clients to Actually Review and Be Wowed by Your Samples
A slow season doesn’t have to be something where you are panicked because you don’t have income. Ideally, you should have planned for it. That allows you to have this time to reflect on your life and your business and decide what you want to do next. I love having these things built into my year because I know that February through June is a crazy time. It’s always busy. But I know I have some slow season coming after the time I have been pushing pretty hard.
A slow season doesn’t have to be completely negative. It’s a chance to recalibrate and take a break for once. I had a freelance coaching client once who hadn’t taken a vacation in 3 years! We had discussions about taking time off and put it in the calendar ahead of time. I never feel guilty for taking a vacation when I do.
What are your favorite things to do during a freelancing slow season? I’d love to hear more about how you make this downtime work for you. Remember you can always send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to SUBSCRIBE to the podcast so you always get updates about new episodes every week. Also, I would love it if you would do me a HUGE honor of leaving a review of the show inside your podcast app like iTunes or wherever you listen. It helps other people who are freelancers find this show.
Welcome back to the Advanced Freelancing Podcast! Today I’m going to talk about something that is going to help supercharge where you’re at with your freelance business. It can also help you overcome obstacles in your business much faster than if you were having to work through things on your own.
Since I started I started my freelance business there have been more resources added to the internet, books, and other places to learn about freelance writing. However, that’s now always enough to get you where you need to be. I have read practically every book there is on freelance writing.
I have also interacted with coaches. I have attended conferences. All of this has been helpful and I have picked up different tidbits here and there. But one of the ways to absorb a lot of information more quickly is to choose to work with a coach.
For a long time, I was resistant to working with a coach. I had the mindset of being afraid to let anyone else into my business. What if they messed it up? What if they tried to press their business model on me and I didn’t agree with it? An example of this is subcontracting my writing work to other writers...I don’t agree with this practice. This is MY business so I was very protective of it! This is a personal choice for me.
I am familiar with both the agency and solo model of business. This is helpful when I’m coaching others with their business. We have a real conversation about what is best for THEM!
The first reason you would hire a freelance coach is because you’re stuck. You’re stuck at a certain income level, stuck working for clients you don’t like, or you feel like you are stagnant and you are having difficulties going in the next directions. This is where you say “Okay, I need more help!” A lot of the people who hire a coach have been stuck at a certain income level for a while and are ready to step it up.
Hiring a coach can help you get to those higher income levels so much faster. WHY? Because it involves having someone else’s eyes on your business giving you recommendations and suggestions on what’s best for you!
The second reason you want to hire a coach is that there is SO MUCH information out there. You don’t want to spend the time sorting through ALL THAT INFORMATION searching and trying to find out what’s best for you! You want to be able to bypass the challenges and get to where you want to be faster.
Now if you are someone with a lot of free time on your hands, then by all means, you can read through everything there is out there on freelancing. But this will take FOREVER for you to get results! I wish I had invested in the help of a coach when I first started my business! Having someone in your corner who understands not only your business but also the strategy of running your business is invaluable.
The third reason you might want to hire a freelance coach is because you NEED that additional accountability If you slacked off in your marketing or if you know there are things you want to do or try in your business but you just can’t seem to make them happen, you need a coach. Investing in a coach gives you accountability to make these things happen that you otherwise tend to ignore or put on the back burner. This provides focus because it’s another person to help you stay on track!
There are other reasons you might hire a coach. They include:
There are different coaching models out there for when you are working with a coach. I have personally been through just about all of them. In fact, if you purchase my book the last chapter is all about coaching and mentoring and the different options available to you.
This is where you invest in a course. But there is some kind of limited amount of contact with the actual coach like office hours. You might get a 1:1 call with the coach. You may also get a set of group coaching calls. These can help you with specific questions about the course. But, these are timed and very limited as far as interaction especially if it’s a group call or office hours.
This is great for the person who doesn’t necessarily need long term support. If you have a handful of questions or want someone to give you in-depth advice about your marketing or LinkedIn profile for pitching purposes a strategy session might be for you. These can help you with emergency issues in your business if you get stuck and need to figure things out.
Make sure you find someone who specializes in your particular area of business. They are usually 45-90 minutes long. You can get a lot accomplished in that time if you are really focused. With a 90 minute session, I can usually cover 3 topics with my clients. It’s a great place to go if you need help or direction with what to do next.
This is essentially one step up from purchasing a course or book and reading through the material. Why? Because essentially you are going to receive information from the person running the mastermind and then are given a chance to ask questions about the information in a group coaching call.
A mastermind would be a good fit for you if you like engaging with other people. You can sometimes actually learn just as much from other people as you can from a coach. If you feel like your freelance business is kind of isolated and you are looking for like-minded people who may be going through what you are makes a mastermind a good choice for you.
This is by far the most expensive form of coaching. But for good reason. It’s the most involved form of coaching. You’ll find a lot of coaches who do things in a whole bunch of ways. One form of this type of coaching includes a series of coaching calls where you can ask questions on this once a week call.
The type of 1:1 coaching I do with my clients is by using a voice app like Voxer or sometimes people use Facebook Messenger where you can essentially get almost unlimited support. This would be if people need day to day support. One on one coaching is better to do this way because if you have urgent questions arise, you can ask that question without having to wait until your scheduled call. The reason that I offer my coaching like this is that most of the freelancers I work with already have semi-consistent income making at least $3000 a month and they are wanting to scale, but they have day to day issues that they just want feedback on. They tend to need that day to day support and I’m happy to provide it! I still do a monthly call with them to cover important things, but day to day support allows them to Voxer me and get immediate support.
The two primary ways that I provide coaching is the Strategy Sessions and the 1:1 Unlimited Coaching through Voxer. Usually, people are a fit for one or the other. Almost all of the freelancers I have worked with on a 3 Month period get a lot of results in their business. They even often renew for another 3 months to start the next steps in their business.
The people who use 1:1 coaching get results a lot Voxer a lot faster. This gives them a whole new round of questions they need to address to take the next step in their business.
If you are thinking about hiring a coach but you are stuck, consider what type of coaching style might be right for you. For example, I don’t get anything out of mastermind coaching. You have to make sure you connect with a coach that coaches in a way that will connect with you.
If you are interested in learning more about my coaching, I always do a free call with people first to make sure we are a good fit. It also allows me to see some of the issues you want to work on. You can learn more about my coaching at https://www.betterbizacademy.com/coaching and as always you can email me at email@example.com. If I am not the right fit for you I will recommend you to another coach that might be.
I know it’s hard to invest money in things, especially as a newer freelancer. But in hindsight, I don’t regret investing in these types of things because they have helped me go to the next level in my business. I encourage you to look at where you are right now in your business and also where it is you want to go. Coaching might be a possible solution to help you achieve your goals.
**Remember you can always send topics and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello again! Welcome to this episode of the Advanced Freelancing Podcast. Today I’m deviating a little bit from my “traditional” podcast episodes to discuss some information about my book! If you haven’t heard, my first book published with Entrepreneur Press officially came out on July 16th, 2019.
I want to tell you why I chose to write this book. I also want to share why I think writing this book will not only benefit my coaching and consulting business, but also my freelance writing business as well.
“I believe that everybody has at least one book inside of them.” -Laura Briggs
Writing a book for freelance writers is kind of a no brainer. It was an excellent vehicle for me to be able to show off my writing abilities. It doesn’t matter if you choose to self publish or publish through a company. Being able to produce an actual book shows people that you have the stamina it takes to outline, create, edit, and publish a book. This is a great thing for your credibility as a freelance writer.
For me as a freelance writer, having a book about freelance writing will directly help my freelance business. When I’m pitching to a client, there is a certain amount of credibility and validity from having a book published. I have wanted to write a book for a long time.
Originally when I was toying with the idea of writing a book I had the idea of starting with fiction first. So I went to a writing conference. I had kind of a bad experience with a fiction agent. One of the most important things I learned at the conference was that I would feel much more confident if I went the route of non-fiction first.
Fiction books sell on the basis of completed projects. So for new writers, this means you have to have a manuscript that has already gone through at least one round of general editing done before you can even pitch it to an agent or decide to self publish.
Non- fiction books sell on spec. This means they sell on proposal. My proposal was about 55 pages and I made sure to get it right! Your proposal is essentially your pitch to agents and publishers about what it is you think you want to do.
Non- fiction books have their own unique set of challenges. Not only do they sell on proposal, but they also sell on platform. This means that in order for a publisher to pick up your traditional non fiction book for regular publishing you have to be able to show that you already have an established audience who are ready and willing to buy that book. This can be done in many different ways with social media and mailing lists.
However, the reality is that not a lot of people have developed that kind of audience especially when they are writing their first book. It’s the number one thing we heard from publishers when I was submitting my book was that I didn’t have a big enough platform. This is why when you see books they are typically from someone who is some kind of advanced executive. It’s people that have a massive following.
I spent about 4 months creating my proposal! I knew I wanted to write about freelancing. Funnily enough, the book we sold is NOT the book we pitched. So I am self publishing the book that we originally pitched. I didn’t really need the full 4 months for the proposal, but I was questioning a lot of things. I was slower because this was a foriegn concept to me.
I finished my proposal in January 2018. So now it was time for me to shift focus to evaluating agents. There are a lot of places to find potential literary agents. Different ways to find an agent include:
● Attend a conference and pitch it live. You want to make sure you only pitch to agents who take the type of book you are creating. Example- an agent who only takes children's books certainly would not be a fit for someone pitching a nonfiction book. I personally was looking for a versatile agent who sold not only business books, but had a crossover into other genres.
● Using a paid tool. I found 33 potential agents by using a paid tool called Publisher’s Marketplace. I paid $25 a month and you can see different deals and books that agent has represented.
● Writers Market. This is a huge volume that has everything from magazines that you can pitch to writing competitions. Every year they do a volume of agents and break it down by what that agent accepts as far as types of work. You want to double check what you find here with Publisher’s Marketplace.
You start to submit to agents. You start to have conversations with agents about your book. Once you find an agent you like, you will sign an agreement with that agent to start shopping your book to publishers. Agents take a standard 15% cut of what you do. Sometimes the contract would be for that one project. There are also instances where the contract will be for a specific amount of time in which that agent would be entitled to 15% of whatever you sell during that time period. SO MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS READ YOUR CONTRACTS VERY CAREFULLY WITH BOTH AN AGENT AND A PUBLISHER! GET AN ATTORNEY FOR THIS!
It can be a long process to publish a book traditionally. A traditional timeline for publishing a book is about 2 years. That’s from the time the idea is accepted to the time there is a physical book in hand. Self publishing is a lot quicker. It can even be as quick as a few months for self publishing.
I knew I was getting an offer in the summer of 2018. Which was quick because I only signed with an agent in May. We pitched to a lot of big publishers. We got a lot of feedback that my platform was too small.
Publishers tend to sometimes be behind the trends. So if you are pitching something that is cutting edge, you need to know this can sometimes be a hard sell depending on who you are pitching to. I want to note that for me and this book I was pitching, I don’t think the publishing houses knew the power of and how many freelancers there are. Not just in the US but also around the world.
We finally got a response from a publishing house that was interested in my book. But then we got a response from Entrepreneur. They said that they were not interested in taking on the project of the bigger book at that point in time, but had an opening to refresh an old book about an introduction to freelance writing.
After many conversations with several people, I decided that this was a good opportunity for me. Even though my business is shifting to help more intermediate/advanced freelancers, being able to offer something at the introductory level was a great opportunity.
My contract was signed in mid August and my first draft was due on December 1st. So I had to write roughly 65,000 words in a very quick amount of time in the publishing world. I knew I could do it. So I stuck with the schedule and met the deadline. It went through one round of edits that I had to complete around Christmas time.
Then the first two weeks of January I had to complete copy edits. These were things like punctuation, grammar, etc. There were more than 5000 changes that I had to manually accept and edit or decline and explain why I declined.
I really loved with Entrepreneur Press because even though they had certain styles and things they wanted me to cover, they were really leaning on my expertise. It was the perfect blend of structure and creativity for me.
The book went into production very quickly after a few more edits. It was on pre-sale from March to when it went live on July 16th! So the process of writing a book is amazing! I had really psyched myself out thinking it was going to be really difficult. There are a few things that made it a great process including:
● A great agent who was advocating for me.
● I worked with a great publishing house that was very easy to work with.
● There were very clear expectations about the marketing that was going to be done.
The original outline that I proposed to the publisher changed dramatically as I was writing this book. I wrote it chapter by chapter, but as I was writing there were things I thought needed to be changed. So I had the idea of 12 chapters at roughly 5,000 words each. So I used a spreadsheet to track my words, places that need more work, and chapters that I felt were done.
I wrote a lot of this book on planes because my husband was traveling all over the country for job interviews. I wrote in coffee shops and libraries. This really motivated me and helped me stay focused and on track.
Here is my final piece of advice to you for this episode. If you are thinking about writing a book, even if you hear this and think traditional publishing isn’t for me, that’s okay. I still encourage you to set a deadline, keep it, and write your book. Why? Because this is a good process that pushes you to the next level!
So you may be wondering why I wrote this particular book? Well, when I first started out as a freelancer, this is the book that I wish I had! When I started in 2012, most sources out there was so outdated! So the framework for this book is online freelance writing! I focused on this because it’s my area of expertise. I wrote about what I knew about! I wanted a newbie to be able to pick up this book and decide if freelance writing was right for them by looking a real day of my life as a freelance writer.
If you are interested in purchasing this book it’s available at all major retailers. It’s not overly “thick” book so it’s easy to flip through. I’d love to hear your questions and comments about my book. Please send those to email@example.com.
Related topics: freelance writing, traditional publishing, writing a book, finding a literary agent
Today I’m talking about one of the topics that I am most passionate about...toxic clients. Why am I so passionate about this topic? This really matters because not only have I worked with toxic clients personally, but I have also privately coached other freelancers who have dealt with toxic clients. That become a key component of what we work on together. I have helped them to even identify the underlying patterns that can cause you to end up with toxic clients again and again.
A toxic client is someone who drains all the energy and life force out of you. They are overbearing, overwhelming, and have lots of extra requests from you usually without more pay. They tend to produce emotional responses in the freelancers that they work with. This means they produce emotions like frustration and anger. They can even cause you to feel burnout because toxic clients bring out the worst in you.
If you work with clients that you generally love working for it will be easy to spot toxic clients because of how they make you feel. If you have only worked with toxic clients it may take you longer to realize that client is indeed toxic because you don’t know what patterns to look for. Recognizing the toxic client is the first step. A few questions to ask to identify a toxic client are:
● Does this person treat you poorly?
● Does this person not pay you well?
● Does this person always ask for discounts or reduction in price?
● Does this person make you feel like you don’t quite deserve to work with them even though you are giving it your all?
Anyone in the freelance world can be subject to working with toxic clients. But I find the freelancers that most often deal with toxic clients are writers and virtual assistants. Virtual assistant especially tend to get taken advantage of by clients because the clients essentially wants to dump everything on this one person. They want them to become the go to in their business.
Usually a VA isn’t paid as much as other freelancers and are paid by the hour. A toxic client might act like you could have done the work so much faster but you didn’t. They don’t understand why you can’t just get it with their instructions even though it’s probably that their instructions aren’t good instructions.
A lot of time a toxic client will set up an agreement with a VA and put them on a retainer and then ask for WAY MORE of the VA than what is in that agreement. The tasks they are asking of the VA are more than they are willing or capable of doing. If you are hiring as a VA to work 10 hours a week and the client keeps dumping more and more on you and making you log 15-20 hours a week and you aren’t being compensated for it then that is a toxic client.
So let’s talk about what you can do to try to flag these types of clients before you begin working with them. It’s important to know that you can’t always identify a toxic client. Some of these people can sneak up on you. They can put forward a good face and you have no idea they are toxic. Or it might be that there have been changes and the person you are reporting too has changed and THEY are the toxic person, not the person you were working with before. It’s important to know ways to identify a toxic client. But don’t beat yourself up if one slips throung the cracks because they may not become or show their toxic client side until a few weeks after you start working together.
Let’s go over some tips to identify a toxic client. Red flags include:
● How do they talk about their past freelancers? For example, they tell you they have worked with 15 other graphic designers and they were all horrible and they had to fire them all. The odds of ALL 15 of them being awful and unprofessional are very low. This means it’s actually something wrong with the client and not the freelancers. A few bad freelancers is okay, but large numbers of freelancers being considered awful is a red flag you are dealing with a toxic client. You can ask them to tell you about their experience with working with freelancers in the past. If their answer is that they have yet to work with a freelancer before this could be your chance to shape them in how they should act, work with, and communicate with a freelancer. What you are looking for with their response is how they talk about freelancers from their past.
● Look at their expectations. Are they pushing you to be available 24/7? These might be communication issues that brush up against your boundaries. A lot of times toxic clients will bring this up themselves and say it’s important for you to be available 24/7.
● Proving your worth. A toxic client might be pushing you to prove your worth even on the initial phone call. They might constantly be talking about ROI. They may not be willing to sign a contract for more than a month because they just don’t trust you. They might pay you 10% upfront and then the rest when they are satisfied with the completed product. This is a red flag.
● Communication preferences. This is a huge issue. It’s important to set forth what are your preferred communication is. As a freelancer, you have to set boundaries with clients on how you can/will communicate with you. With toxic clients, always get everything in writing possible. Communication choices for this include email, documents in an email, in your communication software, etc.
So let’s talk about when you think someone might be toxic. How do you address it before you decide to fire them? I try to give people the benefit of the doubt before firing them. Here are a few tips:
● Call the situation out early on when it happens. For example, you do a call with some so they have your number and the client starts texting you at 10 pm, First, you ignore the text. Next, you wait until business hours and you send them an email letting them know you business phone is turned off and you will not respond to texts because it’s too difficult to keep track of. Encourage them to reply to the email with any concerns. Even with emails, wait and don’t respond until you are in your business hours.
● If the client speaks to you unprofessionally, call it out in the moment as nicely as possible. A great example is working with people who grew up in NY or NJ. Sometimes their tone and accent can come across as snippy or rude even if they aren’t intentionally being that way. So you can call it out and say, “I don’t know if you mean for this to be coming across this way, but…”. Sometimes when the client didn’t mean it they will say they didn’t mean it that way. Sometimes this is when you have to make a judgement call. If someone is openly rude or cussing at you, don’t even engage any further with this person.
● If you are in a relationship with a toxic client, I don’t care how much money it is, you can’t afford to keep working with them. First of all, if you calculate the actual amount of time you are working for them you probably aren’t getting what you are worth. Plus if you add in the emotional, mental and physical toll they are causing you, IT’S NOT WORTH IT! They will push you to burnout. They will make you question your capabilities and so much more. One really negative aspect of working with a toxic client is that not only is it affecting the work you are doing with them, but it could bleed over into your other clients. It’s just not worth it. Navigating out of this type of relationship is tricky. First try to let them correct their behavior. If they can’t do that, then keep it professional and let it go.
Have you ever had to work with a toxic client before? If you have I’d love to hear how you navigated out of it. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to the 3rd episode in the reboot of this podcast. The focus of this podcast is now Advanced Freelancing. If you haven’t gotten caught up on this change then jump back two episodes and find out why I rebranded this podcast and what you can expect from it. Now let’s get into today’s episode.
Today’s episode is all about the freelancer’s guide to working with startups. There are so many businesses that start up daily. There are lots of businesses that also close within the first year of starting up. And even business that make it 2-3 years in business still aren’t guaranteed to stand the test of time. There of millions of startups that are out there and some are successful but a lot of them aren’t. So...as a freelancer should you work with startups?
As a freelance writer, I have been contracted and contacted by LOTS of startups. I always go in a little bit cynical. Why is that? Because sometimes the excitement of the startup fades over time which ultimately leads to the end of the business.
“The problem with startups is that they haven’t fully tested whether or not their company is going to be successful.”-Laura Briggs
Let’s go through some things that I have learned through the process of working with startups and some things to keep in mind when you are contacted by a startup OR if you are thinking about pitching to one.
These are just a few of the many things you will need to take into consideration before you decide to start working with a startup. You need to make sure that your 10 hours a week doesn’t quickly become 40 hours a week and drowning out your other clients. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a startup so be wise in the decisions you make regarding your freelancing business.
If you have worked with startups before, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Email me at email@example.com and I might feature you on a future show.
I’m now seven years into my freelance journey, and the last six of those have been as a full-time freelancer. I’ve been through the beginning stages, the ups, the downs, the struggles, and the successes.
In this episode, I’m reflecting back on what it was like when I was just starting my business and what I’ve learned since then.
Is there something you wish you had known when you started your freelancing business? Share with me on LinkedIn. Let me know you are listening and enjoying this podcast by writing a review on Apple Podcasts!
Hello, and welcome… again! I’m relaunching my podcast, and if you were a listener a few years ago, you’ll notice this podcast has a completely new name and approach.
This relaunched podcast is geared specifically towards intermediate and advanced freelancers who are on the cusp of scaling their business in a big way… in their OWN big way!
The techniques, strategies, and resources I’ll be talking about are geared towards freelancers who are well past those beginning stages of starting a business.
If you are tired of hearing about the recipe that you MUST follow to be successful, the steps you HAVE to follow to get more clients, the niche you MUST be in to grow your business, then you’ll want to tune in to this podcast each week. Make sure you subscribe so you get notified when a new episode is released!
Have a topic you’d like me to talk about? Send your idea to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello fans of Better Biz Academy!
Today's episode is inspired by numerous posts I have seen in various Facebook groups and emails that I tend to get about whether or not people really need a freelance contract and how on earth you find one and what should I put in there etc.
So, today I am only going to focus on one particular aspect of the whole contract debate, which is: what happens if you don’t have one.
Welcome to this episode of the Better Biz Academy podcast where I talk about the tools that I use to make podcasting possible and how you can easily and quickly launch a podcast yourself.
It's becoming very popular for people to think about podcasting because a lot of people are listening to podcasts now. By the time you're hearing this episode, I've had my podcast and have been recording for over a year and there have been quite a few things that I've learned in that process. This is a quick, action-packed episode about the tools that I use to make podcasting easy.
I have tried a number of different tools in the process of having a podcast. Some of them I loved and some of them I eventually let go, but I now have a few favorites — to record my podcast, to make sure that it's edited properly, and to publish it with minimal fuss.
Udemy Course: How to Launch a Podcast in 30 Days or Less