Recently, a friend of mine asked me to sit down with him to talk about freelancing.
"What?" I thought. "I'm nothing special- what could I know that this older, smarter friend of mine does not?"
And then I thought "Lauren, don't sell yourself short!"
I may not be an expert in any field- but I know what has worked for me and what hasn't. Who am I to deprive my friend, or anyone, of the knowledge and experience that I have to offer? It isn't like it costs me anything- it's not a fool-proof recipe for success that I have on my hands here, and I am not in competition with him- so why not share?
After a very productive meeting, I wrote him a detailed message highlighting all of the things we had talked about. It made me feel good. And it made me think "Wow- I know a lot more than I thought I did!" so in the interest of sharing, I thought I would write down the resources, tips, and best practices that I have in my own freelance life to help get you started!
First- Think About What You Are Good At
A few years ago, I started a blog because I knew I was good at blogging. Then later, I realized that I was good at Facebook. So I started training myself to be better at it and to find a way to make the amount of time I spend online work for me instead of working for someone else!
Second- Figure Out How It Has To Work For You
I am an actor, so I have to be able to travel and take gigs whenever I want. So I needed jobs with flexible hours, the ability to go offline but appear online, and the ability to work at any time from anywhere. Social media was an obvious choice, but there are lots of writing jobs that you can get that fit into this as well, or jobs with very loose and flexible schedules.
Third- Make That Dream A Reality- Take Action!
Steps one and two are all about thinking- this is where you have to go after that. You can dream about the life you have so far imagined all you want, but if you don't put in the work, it won't happen for you.
For me, my taking action started with that first blog. I made commitments to myself and to my readers/writers about what that blog would represent, how it would be executed, and when it would be executed. And over the year and a bit that I ran it- it went very well. But I wasn't achieving what I had wanted to when I first set out- I wasn't helping my community in the way I had hoped to. So I decided to go back to step one and re-evaluate. That is when I realized that I could make social media work for me. Here are the steps I took to get where I wanted to be.
1. Get the right tools
I got Hootsuite right away, a great service for managing social networks. When I first started on Hootsuite, I had 5 accounts to manage, most of them my own. Now I have 23 across 5 networks, plus a few accounts that Hootsuite doesn't yet support. Hootsuite also has an excellent series of training programs, and from them I earned my Social Media Marketing Certificate just over a year ago!
Other tools that I use that are VERY useful to freelancers: Pocket saves articles for you to read later and allows you to organize them however you want to using tags, plus suggests other useful content to you. Canva is both a site and an app that allows you to create beautiful and free/very inexpensive images quickly and easily. They are perfect for creating images to add to blog posts, social media profiles, or for adding things to existing images. You could even create a gorgeous logo on there! Seriously, amazing. If you're looking for something a bit more elaborate and professional, Visme is another tool that I have turned to from time to time! Opportunity and LinkedIn Jobs post jobs for you based on keywords that you put in, and help you to connect with potential employers. LinkedIn Learning is a great resource for classes as well, in all sorts of things!
2. Stay Informed
I make a very large point to stay abreast of the things going on that might affect any of my clients, plus any big news stories so that I can stay informed! Not only does this interest me and make me feel like I can be a better person, but it helps me to be able to interact with people online about way more things, and to start conversations myself too! Which is way more interesting for my clients' audiences to interact with. Whatever job you do, make sure you never stop reading up on it and learning! One way that I do this is I sign up for mailing lists and I actually read the e-mails! I do a lot of social activism in my personal life and so I follow organizations like Avaaz, LeadNow, and Sum of Us to read about issues that I care about and how they are doing all over the world! I also get the latest updates from influencers in my clients circles who have helpful resources for me- such as Kim Garst's Boom!Social.
Pro Tip: I get on my clients' e-mail lists too- helps to make sure I know the company message and I can help with fact and spell checking!
3. Promote Yourself
This is the one I bet the most people struggle with. You have to be willing to tell people what you do and how you do it loudly and consistently (but not obnoxiously!!) Make sure that people know that you are available and that you do good work- and also let them know when you are too busy or when you're not a right fit for the job. Don't promote a version of yourself that you're not and don't make promises that you can't keep- you won't be getting a good recommendation after that job!
I personally think it is really important to have a good online presence (but maybe I am biased!) If you are a freelancer, people are going to want to look you up to see if you are legit- you had better have some sort of online presence. I got one of my favourite jobs ever because my employer saw my LinkedIn profile and decided that she wanted to hire me. That is the power of social media my friends! Don't underestimate it!
4. Be Disciplined and Make Plans
As a freelancer, you're going to have lots of temporary or part time gigs. You have to be really good at planning and scheduling to make a go of it! I personally keep multiple calendars for multiple things, and at least once a week I check all of them to see that I have enough time to do the work I need to do, to do things that I enjoy, and to take care of myself. Everything comes in waves- sometimes I am really busy and sometimes I am not! So I make sure that before a busy wave I do things like get groceries and cook, I clean, I do less pressing things, so that when I am hunkered down I can just focus on getting it done.
I also don't waste any time doing anything that I don't want to be doing. If the job doesn't interest me, then I won't keep doing it! I don't mean that you should break your contracts or anything like that, but when your contract is up for renewal and you have asked for what you need from your employer and it just isn't happening, YOU get to say goodbye. That is the beauty of freelancing- remember that YOU are the one in charge. YOU should decide where your time and energy goes, not anyone else! For every one of my jobs, I have a maximum number of hours I will work for it a day (and a minimum too, to hold myself accountable!). I want to make sure that I have time to enjoy my life, and doing so takes discipline and lots of planning!
5. Don't Stop Growing
If you are competing constantly for short term contracts, you have to make sure that you are really providing something for your clients. The thing that I have always found the most valuable is a willingness to learn something new- in a day, a week, or however long it takes. You should always be developing new skills to keep being on top of your game. And when you are feeling stuck and you're not sure how to move forward, think about all the skills that you have and all the skills that you would like to have. Then go find people who have the skills you want and find a way to learn from them, either by meeting with them face to face or taking their free webinar or reading their e-book! Find ways to keep growing in your work and in your life, and you will be able to do anything you want!
Anything you think I missed in this blog? Comment below! I can't wait to see what things work for different people!