8 Ways to Rev Up Your Freelance Business Before the Holidays

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As we move into December with the holidays quickly approaching, your freelance work can slow down because many businesses go into vacation mode. If your workload is lighter than usual, we have a few tips for picking up new year-end business or revving up your freelance business in 2016.

1. Take Advantage of Holiday Promotions that Businesses Offer

Before and during the holidays, many B2C companies and some B2B companies are running online holiday promotions to increase revenue before the year ends. Whether you’re an IT professional, writer or in design/multimedia, you’ll find that many of your clients need extra help during this time to get their promotions online. Assuming you have a clientele list, contact existing and past clients and prospects to inquire whether they are in need of support during the holiday season.

2. It’s Winter – Time to Cold Call

The holiday season is a great time to cold call potential clients to which you can offer services. Making personal phone calls and creating individual email messages that address pain points that these potential clients might have is a good way to get your foot in the door. If they aren’t in need of your services during the month of December, they’ll likely be interested when the new year begins and their 2016 budgets are approved.

3. Perform Website Housekeeping

If you’re finding that your workload is a little light during the holiday season, take advantage of this time to improve your website. When you’re a freelancer and you generate clients from your website, you need to ensure it is optimized for search and conversions and that it also presents a favorable first impression.

Write down your objectives and ensure your website accurately reflects your goals. Highlight and showcase your latest and best work. If your website is out of date and looking a bit tired, don’t be afraid to update the theme. Ensure you utilize a responsive theme – meaning it adapts to mobile devices and functions great on any device. If you want to learn about new trends in web design, check out this great article from Search Engine Watch, “12 Good, Bad and Ugly Web Design Trends for 2016.”

4. Keep in Touch with Freelance Clients Via Holiday Cards

The holiday season is a perfect time to thank your freelance clients for their business during the year. Take a look at the clients in your Contacts App or database and create custom greeting cards that thank them for their support during the year. During the holiday season, many of us are bombarded with email promotions and we tend to tune them out. A snail mail greeting card can make you stand out in a crowd.

Consider including your brand, logo and contact information (in a tasteful way) on your greeting card to help your clients and prospects keep you on top of mind. Moreover, ensure that you write a personal message on each card. Cards Direct, TinyPrints and VistaPrint provide customizable greeting cards that you can utilize for this purpose.

5. Enhance Your Social Media Presence

Social media is a fantastic way to help freelancers drum up new business. If you’re already using social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, you know that it takes a significant amount of time to post new content each day. The slower holiday season is a perfect time to focus on your social media posts and interactions to highlight your best work, present yourself as a knowledgeable expert and to reconnect with clients and build prospects.

For example, if you’re a writer, highlight any articles or web copy that you created during the year on your social media channels. If you’re looking for holiday work, emphasize your holiday promotional materials. In addition, if you’re a graphic designer, social media is a great avenue for showing off your best visual content, especially if it’s holiday themed. Of course, it’s important to ensure any sharing is cleared with your clients.

6. Showcase Your Best and Newest Work Using Your Online Portfolio

If you’re in a creative field and you haven’t already done so, utilize this time to update, showcase and highlight your work with an online portfolio. Many companies use these sites to recruit their freelance and contract resources. Moreover, if you already have an online portfolio, the holiday season is a great time to update it with your best and latest work.

If online portfolio sites are new to you, check out the following websites:

  • Coroflot: Launched in 1997, Coroflot hosts over 2 million images and over 150,000 new projects are published each month.
  • Dribbble: Launched in 2009, Dribbble is described as a “show and tell” for designers. Illustrators, graphic designers and other creative professionals share small screenshots that show their work.
  • Behance Network: Launched in 2006, Behance is a growing business unit of Adobe based in New York City. It allows you to create a portfolio that’s connected so you can update work in one place and easily broadcast it.
  • CarbonMade: Launched in 2005, CarbonMade showcases more than 950,000 portfolios for illustrators, copywriters, fashion designers, stylists and others.

7. Network, Network, Network

When you’re a freelancer, it’s very important to network with friends, family, colleagues and other connections especially if you’re a social person – not just to gain clients, but for your happiness and well-being. The holiday season is an ideal time to reconnect with those you know over lunch, happy hours, parties or other social outlets. Keep in mind that referrals are super important for growing your freelance business. Utilize the holiday season to reconnect with past clients, ex-coworkers and friends. Explain to people in your network what you do, how you help businesses succeed or about the products that you sell.

8. Gain Recommendations and Testimonials

If you have some downtime during the holiday season, consider obtaining recommendations or testimonials from current or past clients and posting them on your website, social media accounts and online portfolio. Testimonials are equally as important as having an exceptional portfolio. Many freelancers obtain new clients from the endorsements of their current or past clients. This is why testimonials are of upmost importance when building a successful freelancing career.

An easy way to obtain recommendations is to utilize the LinkedIn “Request a Recommendation” tool. Alternatively, you can email clients or contact them via social media to request testimonials. There are also software solutions to help. Capture video testimonials with Bravo or use a product such as Boast to collect, organize and manage testimonials.

Your Turn

As a freelancer, what will you be doing to increase your success during the holiday season? Please comment and let us know.

5 Ways Freelancers Can Develop Focus and Improve Productivity

Productive Freelancer

One of the greatest challenges of a freelancer or those who work from home is staying focused, which leads to improved productivity. Many freelancers indicate that technology distractions and boredom are the focus-zapping culprits that plague their days.

Traditional workers might be in disbelief when the freelancer complains that they’re troubled by distractions. In their opinion, the freelancer doesn’t deal with loud office mates, chattering colleagues, persistent pestering from a helicopter boss and the never-ending meetings.

The distractions that freelancers face differ from those of the traditional worker. For example, in our modern environments, we’re bombarded with information that is competing for our attention. Facebook, Twitter and text messages are just to name a few. As marketers get more and more savvy and the messages and information we see become more and more personalized, it’s harder to resist the temptations that are presented – especially when unsupervised and when managing our own deadlines.

For freelancers, increased productivity means a bigger payday so the benefits of increased focus are clear. If you too are plagued by distractions, keep reading to learn a few tricks to increase your focus.

1. Turn Off Notifications

If universities offered Productivity 101 classes, this nugget of advice would be offered on day one. If you haven’t already turned off your visual and audible notifications on your devices from text messages, email, phone, apps and social media, then start today.

If the nature of your work or personal life prevents this strategy, turn off as many notifications as possible or schedule blocks of time or “sprints,” as described in the next section, without distracting notifications.

2. Take a Break Every 90 Minutes

Studies show that our brains can only focus for about 90 to 120 minutes at a time. Working for 90 minutes without interruptions and then taking 10 to 20 minute breaks in between each work sprint can boost focus and productivity.

There’s science that backs up this theory. Nathaniel Kleitman is credited for discovering the “basic rest-activity cycle,” which is described as cyclical sleep stages that start from light sleep and progress to deep sleep. Each cycle takes from 90 to 110 minutes.

What you might not know is that these 90-minute cycles also apply to daytime, which researchers describe as “ultradian rhythms.” Incorporating these cycles into your work pattern can greatly improve focus and productivity. You’ll also feel more refreshed at the end of the day.

An easy way to set 90 or 110-minute time blocks is to use your smartphone. If you’re using an iPhone, use the Timer function in your Clock app.

3. Learn to Focus Through Meditation or Yoga

As mentioned earlier, the messages and information we see on the Internet become more and more personalized and it’s harder to resist the temptations we see. In addition stress builds up as a result of this information overload. Practicing meditation and yoga can train your brain to focus and to make better decisions – thus, not giving in to those distractions.

Skeptical? There’s proven science that backs it up. Some studies show that meditation, specifically mindfulness meditation, decreases the volume of grey matter in the amygdala and increases the thickness of the pre-frontal cortex. The amygdala controls your “flight or fight” responses while the pre-frontal cortex controls planning, emotions and decision-making. Consequently, a regular practice of meditation can increase your power to concentrate and focus.

4. Use a Digital To Do List or Task Manager

When you don’t have a clear plan for the day, you tend to just go with the flow and nasty distractions rear their ugly heads. Before you know it, you’re updating your Facebook status bragging about the five-pound bass you just caught or that your golf score broke 100.

It’s important to build a roadmap for the day. To improve focus, a great use of technology is to use a productivity app with a digital to-do list or task manager, such as LifeTopix. With this all-in-one organizer, you can easily re-prioritize, update, copy and share your to do list and tasks. I suggest that you create a to do list every morning and review what you completed at the end of each day and re-prioritize as necessary.

5. Zap Boredom

Boredom – need I say more? Boredom can destroy your focus and energy before you even know what happened. Have you noticed that when you’re bored every distraction becomes more and more tempting?

Boredom is generally a result of monotonous tasks. I found a great technology solution to this problem – “Automation.” If you automate as many mundane tasks as possible, you can focus on more interesting and lucrative freelance work.

A great tool for automation is IFTTT. Essentially IFTTT is your personal assistant for your social media posts, applications you use and your smart devices. Essentially, you create “recipes” or use others’ published recipes, which are conditional statements triggered by changes that occur on the web. For example, when you create a new blog post, an IFTTT recipe can automatically post it to all your social networks. The good news is that you don’t need to be a programmer to use it.

As a freelancer, do you ever get distracted? What are your methods for staying focused? Please share and comment.

5 Business Tips for Right-Brained Marketing and Media Professionals

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Independent media and marketing professionals, such as video producers, website developers, activists, journalists, graphic designers, editors, copywriters and others who manage small media businesses face specific challenges. Managing a client base, expenses, payments and projects are just a few of the many details that independent media professionals manage daily.

Typically, independent media professionals are right-brain dominant, meaning they excel in creative disciplines; but can be less analytical and organized. Generally, left-brained individuals run businesses while right-brained individuals focus on creative endeavors. When right-brained types are presented with thoughts about time management, the classic response is negative. Organization and time management feels claustrophobic, neat and controlled. Essentially, it’s tedious to them.

However, anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit must focus on the logistics of running a small business because it greatly affects the bottom line. The business details can’t be ignored or failure is inevitable. The good news is I truly believe it is easier to train a right-brained type to better organize time and details than it is to teach a left-brained type to be more imaginative and innovative.

Today’s post focuses on some of the details that independent media and marketing professionals should manage and track. It also includes tips about the apps and applications that can be used for tracking and managing these details.

Track Appointments and Events

Sometimes right-brained types have trouble keeping track of commitments, such as appointments and other events. Essentially, they can have a tendency to get engrossed in project work and forget about an important appointment with a potential client.

When independent media professionals use a smartphone and the right productivity apps, these types of mishaps are less likely to occur. The stock calendar app provided on a smartphone is a great place to start; however, there are more comprehensive apps that can display events from multiple calendars and also provide more bells and whistles. Right-brained types are typically very visual so I would recommend a calendar app that has a variety of calendar views; color coding of events; a daily agenda; reminders and audible and visible notifications.

The daily agenda shown here is a great example of how to easily track appointments, events and other details for the current day, the following day and the next seven days — all at a single glance. It also color-codes the types of items on the calendar and if external calendar items are included, it color-codes events from those calendars, as well.

Media Professional Agenda

Manage Tasks and To Do Lists

A to do list can greatly improve time management and the number of things that get done every day. Keeping tasks and to dos in your head is a great way to suffer from brain overload. Media professionals need to free their brain from the tasks and to dos that are floating around so they can focus on creativity and the project at hand.

The best way to manage tasks and to dos is with a digital to do list (rather than a paper list). Below are some of the reasons:

  • Re-prioritization – depending on the digital to do list app, re-prioritization is usually as quick and easy as a tap and drag action.
  • Sharing and Collaboration – a digital format makes sharing and collaboration easy. It’s nearly impossible to share a paper list with someone who’s not at the same location when you’re delegating or sharing tasks.
  • Reuse – Paper lists and sticky notes are for one-time use only. Digital lists can be re-used.
  • Search and History – Completed tasks or to dos that are written on paper or whiteboards cannot be searched for history purposes. One they’re erased, they are lost forever.
  • Mobility – Your smartphone is compact, always with you – and ready while on the go.

The image here shows an example of a digital to do list that can be easily prioritized, shared, searched and reused.

Media Professional To Do List

Manage Projects and Deadlines

When flying solo or with a small team it’s just as important to manage your projects and tasks, as it would be with a larger traditional team. Sometimes a digital to do list is enough for a project, but for more complex projects or if you’re working with multiple clients, a meatier project management solution might be necessary.

It’s important to know what’s required of you from your client and when the tasks are due. You might be a right-brained type, but you can’t always wait for the right time to get things done. Clients demand that projects are delivered on time.

Gathering your client’s goals, determining the scope of the project, understanding the budget, knowing the resources that are available to you and defining your strategy are all necessary when project planning. You must also understand how the client defines success of the project. Once all of these items are defined, break the project down into small, manageable chunks – in the form of a series of tasks.

It’s not necessary to use heavyweight software. Gantt charts and complicated project management systems might be excessive. Generating a series of tasks with deadlines for a project and the ability to associate supporting information might be all you need. The image here shows a task with supporting information.

Task Manager for Media Professionals

Track Clients, Record Client Requirements and Build Relationships

Customer Relationship Management is an important part of managing a small media or marketing business, but organizing the information about clients can be difficult and cumbersome – not only for right-brained types – for just about anyone.

When running a small business, generally you get a feel for when it’s the right time to start implementing customer relationship management software. For example, is managing clients starting to feel out of control? How do you keep track of your top clients? How do you manage information about your clients that’s important to you? How do you track follow-ups with your clients? What state of the sales cycle are your contacts currently in? How do you manage client requirements? All of this and more can be managed through CRM software.

In the following image, you can see that the app below tracks the items mentioned. Top clients are tracked through groups; custom information is tracked via custom forms (i.e. Customer Satisfaction); state of the sales cycle is tracked through the status; client information is tracked through notes; and client follow-ups are tracked through the contact log.

CRM for Media Professionals

Track Income and Expenses

Many independent media professionals count on 1099s, bank deposits, bank statements and credit card statements to track income and expenses. It’s a good idea to track income and expenses using a spreadsheet or other software apps or applications in addition to these other methods to ensure the accuracy. This way, when you do your taxes it will be easier to understand what your income was and how much you spent to run your business. In the app below, expenses are easy to track and they can be divided and organized by category.

Expenses for Media Professionals

Also, in the same app, notice that you can keep track of a list of transactions to get a handle from whom your deposits are originating and your total income. This is a great way to double check that your bank deposits are correct.

Income for Media Professionals

 

An All-in-One App for Independent Media Professionals

Wouldn’t it be great if I told you that all of the images above were collected from one all-in-one app? LifeTopix is an all-in-one app that allows you to manage all of these details in one place – and all of the information is naturally connected. In addition, it doesn’t require monthly subscription fees like other apps and applications. You can find it at the Apple App Store.