Busy Busy Bee

Busy Bees in Work and Social Life

I’ve just looked at my calendar today and realised that I don’t have a free weekend spare now until the middle of August! How can it be possible that I have something booked in every weekend for practically a quarter of the year? It feels ridiculous, but yet somehow fairly easy to achieve when you consider there’s always friends and family to see, holidays, kids’ parties and two milestone birthdays in the next few months ahead of us.

I know some people like having a busy social life, but I’m not a fan of always having something planned and my husband absolutely hates it; you begin to almost feel like you’re constrained by the diary and can’t do anything spontaneous.

Never Enough Time

Many of us are now busier than ever. Busy juggling work, children, the daily commute, school pick-ups and drop offs not to mention the inane household chores, time really does become the most precious of commodities. Yes, it’s important to stay in touch with friends and catch up with the family, but I really do believe that sometimes it’s just as important to stop, take stock and breathe. Time to just chill out, think and do whatever it is that YOU want to do.

Too many of us are concerned about trying to please other people or minimise offending others, so we rush around chaotically trying to do everything to please other people, to fit everything in and often neglect ourselves.

Work

It’s not just family and social life that this all applies too, but work too. I know people who always seem to be absolutely manic. As a freelancer, I’m fortunate enough right now to be busy but not swamped, but I know other freelancers who are fraught, trying to juggle their life around work because they don’t want to turn projects down. Like our social lives, it’s just as important to take stock and look at the situation. I wrote recently about how I’ve just gained the confidence to turn work down that I don’t think is of value either financially or in terms of the type of work I want to focus on. Whatever the nature of your work, whether it’s full time, part time or freelancing, I think it’s always really worthwhile to stop every now and then and look at what we’re doing. Are there some projects or some bits of work that can be delegated to someone else or delayed or abandoned all together? All too often we run around like headless chickens being busy that sometimes a bit of time out to re-assess can really help us get back on track and be more productive.

Be a Little Selfish

It’s important to every now and then, be a little bit selfish. Think about what you want to do. That and learn to say no to people more often. The other thing that I need to do more often is to plan free weekends into the diary. Free from making commitments, free from seeing other people and free to do what we as a family want to do. I used to work with a girl who every couple of months would plan with her husband to have a weekend spent “pulling up the drawbridge”, they wouldn’t go out and no one else would come in, and they would spend that weekend how they pleased together.

We’re all busy, but I hope this post at least makes you stop and think awhile. As John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Are you a busy bee?  Do you like having lots to do and being on the go? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Never Knowingly Undersold

Don't undervalue yourself as a freelancer

About a week ago, I lost out on a fair sized freelancing job because I undersold myself.  I was talking to a prospective client on the phone and when the subject of my costs came up, I gave an approximate figure. There was a silence from the other end. This I’ve come to learn is the first rule of valuing yourself: Hold firm! Don’t fill the silence! But as the seconds ticked on, I felt the need to impress and show my efficiency so I uttered the fateful words “Of course, I may even be able to do the work in less time and therefore my price would be X.”

Stupidly, I’d gone lower when the client was in fact expecting a higher price! The client in this case was fortunately completely honest and told me the price he would usually look to pay. It’s perhaps no coincidence that I didn’t win that work. By undervaluing myself I probably didn’t install much confidence that I could do the job to a decent standard. Luckily for me, he has taken me on for another project.

Turning Work Down

On a similar note, I was recently offered two regular freelancing jobs. Both blog writing for two very different clients. I thought long and hard about them before turning them both down. Why? Because it would have been a fair amount of work, commitment and in one of the cases – research into a subject matter that I didn’t know about, for not very much pay. If it was a one off job, I probably would have done it, but I didn’t want to be tied into work that takes up a lot of time for when other projects hopefully start to come in.

It’s all about getting the balance right and this is yet another tricky element of the freelancing world; weighing up whether you can afford to take on the work or afford to turn it down. There’s a risk of not knowing what’s around the next corner, but I believe you’ve got to give yourself a certain value. You’ve got to place a value on yourself and your time.

A Life Lesson

Surely the principle of valuing yourself isn’t just a rule for freelancing, but life in general too? Whether you’re thinking about finding a new full-time job, or even when meeting a new friend, a new partner or buying a new house. The notion still applies even if we aren’t fully aware of it. How much do we want this? How much time and effort are we prepared to put in with it? What will you get from it in the long term? How much do you value yourself?

The Moral of The Story

There are several lessons and I’m still getting to grips with them:

  • Know your self-worth. In terms of freelancing this means having a clear understanding in your head of your rate of pay. Whether it’s an hourly, daily or project rate.
  • There is probably more to a project than meets the eye. A brief chat with a client on the phone will only convey so much. Once you get going with a task there is likely to be more work to do such as research, admin and meetings. You need to think about these extra tasks before committing yourself and a price to a client.
  •  Think about the long term and what you want. A regular freelancing gig may initially seem great, but if it’s not paying well it may later become a burden and a cross to bear.

What do you think? Freelancers do you agree with me? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly World of Freelancing

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I knew when I started freelance writing that there would be some good and bad points. Some of these have become clearer to me over the past few months and let’s just say I was completely unprepared for the ugly!

The Good

  • I couldn’t contemplate going back to my full-time job along with a heavy commute after the birth of my first daughter, so flexibility for me is the main “good” point about freelancing. I can work my hours completely around my children. I can (and often do) work many evenings just so that I can enjoy the benefits of looking after my children whilst working too.
  •  There is no commuting for me anymore. I can work at whatever time I choose and wherever I like (usually my kitchen table).
  • I love the fact that I work for myself. Whatever I put in, I get out. All the money I earn is completely down to me. I’m no longer lining the pockets for a boss because I am the boss!

The Bad

  • The biggest ‘bad’ of freelancing has to be not knowing what the next project will be and where the next payment is coming from. It can be rewarding working for yourself, but it also takes hard work and dedication in finding the next project. I had no idea when I started out about the amount of time I would need to spend on promoting myself. As well as setting up a website and pushing myself on social media, I generally need to be persistent and get into people’s faces. If I’m not working, I’m knocking on doors and quite often getting turned away. Finding work is in itself hard work.
  •  As a freelancer, you never switch off. If I had a full or even part-time job I would work my set hours, come home and cook dinner for my family. Now I find that if I’m not actually working, then I’m thinking about working. And if I’m not thinking about working, I’m thinking about how I can promote myself more in order to get more work.

The Ugly

  • Lo and behold there have been some occasions when the work and the children cross paths. And it isn’t pretty. This usually happens when I have to speak on the phone. I was once talking to a new client when my eldest daughter decided this was the moment to have a melt-down about needing to “do a poo right now!” The client calmly said “I can tell this isn’t a good time, shall I call back?” Which he luckily did but not before I’d beaten myself up about appearing unprofessional and losing a potential client.

Then there was the time when my youngest daughter woke up unusually early from her nap whilst I was on a scheduled conference call and proceeded to scream the house down until I’d brought her downstairs… You just don’t get this kind of thing in the office.

For me, the ‘good’ of freelancing still outweighs the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’. What do you think? If you’re a freelancer have you encountered any more good, bad or ugly factors that I haven’t mentioned? If you’re a working parent does freelancing have any appeal or would you rather stick to a regular paid job with regular hours? I’d love to hear from you.

Why Self Promotion is Critical

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I have a confession to make. I’ve been freelancing for over two years now and I’ve been lucky enough to have been very busy with a constant flow of work. But in the midst of all that hard work writing copy and marketing other businesses, I’ve managed to neglect the promotion of my own business.

It’s such a ridiculous and cardinal sin of a marketer – to disregard your own promotion. I’ve talked to many clients about the importance of having a regularly updated blog and written their blogs for them, but yet I’ve not taken the time to write my own. I suppose my only excuse is that I naively felt that I didn’t need to do it as I was so busy.

A lesson that I’ve quickly had to learn in the world of freelancing is that nothing remains constant. There are times when it can be incredibly busy and you wonder how you’re going to cope. Then it will suddenly change and you’re left scratching around for work. This is probably true of many small business owners, but one thing that I’ve learnt is that to remain competitive, you have to spend a huge percentage of your time promoting yourself.

The Art of Self Promotion

As an owner of a small business, there’s no room for shyness or being self-effacing. If you don’t promote yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. It’s essential to keep reminding others what you do and why or risk losing out to the competition. You know your business best and therefore you’re the most able person to promote yourself, but if you simply don’t have time to keep on top of it, let others help you.

Social Media

Consumers expect to be able to see you and follow you on Twitter and Facebook. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it’s also essential. Twitter is a great way to network to find new clients or prospects who might be interested in your product or services. It’s also a great way to find like-minded people to learn from. If your business is creative and lends itself to products which are more visual – make use of the other social media tools like Instagram and Pinterest.

Blogs

Blogs let others know what you’re doing. They can be more personal and let customers know more about your personality and your thoughts on a subject. They not only promote you and your business, but they act as a retention method to keep your customers coming back to find out more. They also drive traffic to your website – if somebody stumbles upon a blog post on a Google search and they like what they read they will be more likely to click through to your website and will be a step closer to making a sale or enquiry. Finally, regularly updated blogs are loved by the search engines such as Google which means your website will gradually rank higher.

PR

Nothing beats a bit of self-promotion like an article in a magazine or newspaper, an interview on radio or some favourable write up online. The key to PR is finding a hook which will interest the different media and their respective followers / readers. So perhaps you’re launching a new product that is completely different to anything else in the market. Or maybe your business is approaching a landmark anniversary. There are plenty of things that can act as a good hook, it just needs some thought and some dedication to contact the relevant media.

So what have I learnt? Never assume that work will remain constant or that business will continue to boom. You need to spend a large percentage of your time promoting yourself. In doing so you’ll be seen as a key player and remain competitive. Self-promotion takes time and dedication and sometimes it can be a chore, but in this cut-throat world of business, it’s absolutely vital.

Perhaps you’re struggling with the art of self-promotion or you don’t trust your writing skills to maintain a blog? Maybe you’re running out of things to say on social media or you’re unsure about contacting the press. Get in touch and I’ll gladly give you some pointers.