There’s never been a better time to be a freelance writer. With ads on blogs and publishing platforms open to all, anyone with writing talent has the opportunity to make a living on their own terms. Before you fire your clients and start working for yourself though, here are 23 things you need to know.
- Your Blog is (Probably) Not Going to Make Money
Few bloggers actually make any serious money writing blog posts. According to one survey of 1,000 bloggers only around 8 percent of bloggers make enough money “to be able to support a family.” About 81 percent fail to even make $100. Read the rest…
We’re all lazy. Left to our own devices, the chances are pretty high that we’d walk away from the computer right now, fire up our iPads and settle down to an iBook or a movie, or shoot birds at some egg-stealing pigs. We’d ignore all of the amazing benefits that David Allen’s Getting Things Done system could be doing for our efficiency and not get anything done at all. We’d even lose the opportunity to be more idle. That seems to be the belief among some followers of GTD — and they’re right. Sometimes GTD can work if only we made the effort to make it work. But only sometimes and only for some people.
Posting a comment on a previous GTD post, for example, “Ben,” a GTD user, writes:
“there are people with ADD. maybe it’s not for them. then there are people who are so lazy that they don’t want to learn how to be lazier, because it’s too much ‘work.’”
Judging by its website, Gambill Photography is a fairly typical small photography business. The husband and wife team sell a set of different photography services aimed at the general public: engagements, weddings, seniors, babies and families. Even though there’s a big difference between the skills needed to photograph a baby and those that a photographer will need during a five-hour wedding shoot, they’re all shown off together on the company’s website. The navigation bar contains links to portfolios for each those photography niches.
Compare that to the way that Jerry Lodriguss sells his photography skills. Nowhere on the home page of his astrophotography website is there any mention that Lodriguss is actually a professional sports photographer. And nowhere on his sports photography landing page is there any indication that he also sells astrophotography stock. Those two niches are kept completely separate.
Marketers as famous as Seth Godin are always telling entrepreneurs, big and small, that they should spot a niche and conquer it. In practice though, sellers tend to aim for more than one niche at the same time. They sell wedding photography and baby photography, design logos as well as websites or program apps as well as database software. When should you push those niches together, and when should you separate them so that buyers believe that they’re talking to a specialist? Read the rest…
Kickstarter is the place to go when you’re ready to kick away your freelance career and build your own business. With 44 percent of the nearly 63,000 projects posted on the site fully funded, including seven that received more than a million dollars (and one that picked up more than $10 million), if your idea fits one of the platform’s categories you’ve got a good chance of raising the cash you need to create your own computer game, put on a dance performance or build your own hi-tech, Bluetooth-supported gadget. But what if you’re happy freelancing? What can the lessons of Kickstarter’s large number of successful funding pitches do for someone looking to increase the success rate of their freelance job pitches?
At first glance, the two goals have little in common. Kickstarter entrepreneurs are usually looking for funds that will enable them to sell a product. Whether they’re making a computer game, a new iPad stylus or an album, they’re aiming to work for themselves not pitch talent and ability that will persuade someone to hire them.
Productivity experts might tell us to make lists and draw chains, create files and label folders but in practice, there’s one productivity system that all freelancers use every day. Email might not have been invented to manage our work routines but that’s often how we use it. We flag messages to make sure that communications aren’t forgotten. We email ourselves reminders to make sure that we complete tasks. We pray that every time we reply to an enquiry, our email service is automatically adding the address to a contact list we never organize.
There are more efficient ways to use email as your freelance management hub. Here’s how to do it.
Conduct a quick search on Twitter as you’re waiting for your next freelance project to come in, and you might just get a bit of a surprise. Hidden among the tweets about breakfast cereals, Justin Bieber, and #threewordstosayaftersex are a series of requests for freelance workers in a variety of different fields. At a rough average, a new plea for a freelance help goes out every few minutes on Twitter from someone somewhere in the world. And that’s just Twitter. When it comes to landing freelance work, social media might just be the new Elance. Here’s how to use social media to find freelance clients.
The biggest opportunities for freelancers are on the biggest social media site of all. Facebook is rapidly approaching its billionth member and while one American jobseeker in six found their last job through a social media platform, it’s Facebook that lands 44 percent of the jobseeking activity.
Increasing your productivity means doing more than making a list or improving the way you answer your email. It requires making changes to as many as a dozen different aspects of your life. That, at least, is the theory of Casey Moore, a Virginia-based productivity coach who takes a holistic approach to improving output rates. Moore started her career in 2000 as a part-time professional organizer, helping Texans to organize their homes and businesses. She soon moved to full-time work and by the middle of the decade was focused on improving business efficiency rather than domestic organization.
“Although I love organizing ‘stuff,’ I realized that helping people work more effectively (and thereby live the lives they wanted) was more challenging, interesting and rewarding,” she said. “To me, ‘productivity’ means producing whatever you want — accomplishing more at work, feeling more restful at home, or navigating more successfully between the two.”
Taking a Holistic Approach to Productivity
Multitasking is inefficient, unproductive and if it doesn’t get you fired, it probably should. That’s been the reaction to the increasing tendency, especially among young people, to do more than one thing at the same time. They — we — surf the Web, write documents, complete calculations, text friends, listen to music and make phone calls all at the same time. The fingers of one hand might be tapping a keyboard while the thumb on the other hand squeezes out an SMS message and our ears are taking in our favorite tunes from Pandora.
It looks like we’re being hugely efficient, and getting a massive amount done at the same time. In fact, say the experts, we’re not multitasking at all. We’re “switchtasking,” moving from one job to another without giving any one of them the attention they need — and losing time with each shift.
“What we are really doing is switching back and forth between two tasks rapidly, typing here, paying attention there, checking our ‘crackberry’ here, answering voicemail there, back and forth, back and forth at a high rate,” says productivity expert Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done. “It is these switches that cause people to lose time. In this way, switchtasking causes us to be exponentially less productive…. Keep this up over a long period of time, and you have deeply engrained habits that cause stress and anxiety and dropped responsibilities and a myriad of productivity and focus problems.”
Despite the fact that Apple has now sold more than 67 million iPads since its release two years ago, despite the fact that even the old iPad 2 is crushing Kindle Fire and despite the fact that sales of the tablet are still rising (they’re up 150 percent since last year) Apple’s iPad has many failings. This is what’s wrong with the world’s leading tablet computer.
The Screen Isn’t All That
The new iPad’s biggest sales point — the only real positive difference to affect the user, in fact — is its “Retina” screen. Those 3.1 million pixels on a 2048 x 1536 resolution, giving four times the number of pixels in an iPad 2 and a million more pixels than an HDTV can’t be bad, can they? After all, more has got to be better.
Mark Cuban has an unusual way of screening his calls. The entrepreneur, who sold his social marketing firm Flowtown to Demandforce last year, charges $10,000 for an hour’s chat. On the other hand, you can pay just $4.17 per minute and call top Silicon Valley venture capitalist (and “nose-picker extraordinaire”) Dave McClure. Both donate their fees to charity and both dispense their advice and the benefit of their experience through Clarity, a service created by Mark Cuban that allows experts to sell their knowledge.
The service isn’t unique. There are now lots of different ways for people who need specialist information and advice to pick up the knowledge they need from successful types with experience. They also allow experts — and often anyone who wants to call themselves an expert — to make a little extra money sharing their knowledge. Here’s a rundown of some of the different ways you can learn from the best or teach the rest.
The biggest challenge in selling freelance services isn’t finding potential new clients. And it isn’t choosing the works to show in your portfolio. It’s creating trust, the tipping point where the questions about your ability transform into a belief that you can do the job. That’s what every sales process does to a prospect: it allows them to trust that you can create the product they need, at a schedule that roughly suits them and according to the budget you’ve agreed.
But trust works both ways. Just as a client who’s just handed over a deposit to a freelancer needs to feel that that sum they’re paying will translate into a product they can use, so the freelancer needs to believe that the deposit they receive won’t be the last payment that comes their way. We need to trust the client to accept good work and pay for it.
With several projects now topping a million dollars in pledges, Kickstarter strategies are becoming clearer.
Between the evening of February 8, 2012 and the evening of February 9, 2012 Kickstarter had the craziest 24 hours it had seen in its three-year history. On Wednesday, at 6.54 pm, Elevation Dock, a concept for an iPhone stand from design and manufacturing firm ElevationLab, passed TikTok to become the largest project in Kickstarter history by winning $942,579 in pledges. The company had asked for $75,000. At around 2 pm the following day, it became the first million dollar Kickstarter project. It would go on to make $1,464,706. Four hours later, game maker Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure became the second Kickstarter project to pass a million dollars — reaching the milestone less than a day after launching. It went on to earn $3,336,371.
Those are huge successes for two very different projects, and they’re not alone. The open-source funding service has provided the means for projects as varied as comic books and gardening gear to find the money they need to go into production. So what does it take to turn a concept not just into a success on Kickstarter, but into a blockbuster that gives you all you dreamed of and more? What lessons can we learn from the some of the site’s biggest success stories?
Freelancers are usually passionate about their work but freelance crossword constructors have managed to turn their passion into their work.
Will Shortz has a unique degree. The editor of the New York Times crossword page is the only person in the United States with a bachelor’s degree in enigmatology — the study of puzzles. It was a course that he was able to put together himself using the Individualized Major Program at Indiana University where he wrote his thesis on “The History of American Word Puzzles Before 1860.” In addition to creating clues and editing submissions every day for the world’s most famous crossword puzzle, he has also been the editor of Games Magazine, and is now the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He’s one of the few people who have managed to build a career out of an activity usually done for fun.
But he’s not unique, and the ability to make money doing what you love, even from home, isn’t restricted to an editor at a national newspaper. Shortz himself doesn’t produce the puzzles published in the Times, relying instead on the 75-100 submissions that flow into the newspaper each week from crossword enthusiasts. He’ll pick crosswords from about 100 freelance contributors each year.
You want leads, clients and companies to know about your biggest achievements. Geekli.st gives you a place to brag.
Out of all the thousands of tasks you’ve completed and from all the jobs you’ve been hired to do over the course of your career, there’s probably no more than a handful that really stick out. They’re your biggest successes: the site design that won an award, the app that made the App Store lists, the blog post that went viral or the script now sitting on millions of computers. They’re the accomplishments that act as your introduction at dinner parties and they’re the benchmarks against which you measure each new job you complete. They’re also the highlights of your resume — the real reason that any employer will give you a job or any client hire your freelance services.
Does the iPad’s mobility mean that GTD can really get things done?
David Allen’s Getting Things Done productivity system has always felt as though it added work rather than saved time. The complex system of multiple folders, workflow and priority setting has long appealed to geeks and nerds with a knack for organization. For more typical freelancers, though, the kind of people who tend to make do with whiteboard lists, flagged emails and missed deadlines, GTD always seemed too fiddly and too time-consuming to become a part of a fast-moving day. The popularity of the iPad, though, might just have changed all that. With 85 percent of US tablet owners playing with their devices as the same time as they watch television and 30 percent of all iPad time spent in front of the box, it’s now possible — even easy — for iPad owners to turn their evening relaxation into a productive hour organizing their work and preparing for the next day.
Freelancers can struggle to succeed and struggle with success. Help is at hand.
Freelancers tend to work alone. We sit in our home offices, Skype occasionally with clients and rely on social media for contact with the outside world during work hours. If we’re lucky enough to live close to a co-working space, we might get to meet other freelancers occasionally but for the most part, freelancing is a lonely profession. That doesn’t just mean there’s no one to gossip with; it also means that there’s no one to turn to for help.
There’s nowhere to turn for creative ideas. There’s nowhere to turn for technical assistance. And, no less importantly, there’s nowhere to turn when the business hits a wall.
That’s the service that Jenny Shih is attempting to provide. Shih describes herself as “a coach and consultant for right-brained, creative entrepreneurs.” Her clients, she says, are “solopreneurs,” “idea factories” who are struggling to implement their ideas by themselves. Her background is in high-tech engineering where she managed multi-million dollar projects across four continents with teams made up of hundreds of staff. While other managers were putting in the kind of sixty-plus hour weeks typical of high tech companies, though, Shih was able to apply time management strategies, efficient processes and delegation so that her week’s work was done in forty hours or less. Read the rest…
Publishing your own book might be a useful way to show off your skills but making sales is difficult. Libboo might be able to help.
It’s not just freelance writers who dream about become admired authors. For any freelancer, a book laying out their ideas, their approach and their philosophy can function as a business card that shows off their expertise. When the book is sold it generates revenue. When it’s shared, it spreads the freelancer’s brand. But writing a book is hard. It takes time. And the real work begins when it’s published. In order for the book to have an effect, it has to be promoted and sold, discussed and read.
For authors working with traditional publishers, that work is done by a professional team. Editors pore over the text looking for errors and improvements. Fact checkers make sure claims are accurate. Illustrators add the drawings. And professional public relations staff ensure that copies reach reviewers, and journalists discuss the book’s content. When self-publishers have to do all of that work themselves, it’s no surprise that they struggle to make sales — especially if they’re also trying to run a freelance business at the same time.
Loft Resumes uses graphic design to give the traditional resume a makeover.
We’ve seen a few creative approaches to jobseeking over the last few years. We’ve seen video resumes that go above and beyond and we’ve read about Alec Brownstein who landed a job at an advertising firm after running search ads that targeted his favorite creative directors. But for most jobseekers, the tools of the trade remain pretty simple: a cover letter and a black-and-white resume listing their skills, education and experience. They might play with the fonts a bit, and they might use the layout to make the most important elements stand out and easy to read, but for the most part, a resume has always been a pretty simple tool.