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 If your website is out of date and looking a bit tired, don’t be afraid to update the theme.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.
As a freelancer, what will you be doing to increase your success during the holiday season? Please comment and let us know.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Guest Author, Sulagna Misra, talks about challenges with organizing her writing schedules and deadlines as a freelance author. More on the author below.
I got a check in the mail today! It was great until I realized it was for two different invoices — #5 and #7, which means I wasn’t being paid consecutively. I checked past checks and saw I had been paid for invoices #1 and #4. I double-checked the excel spreadsheet where I keep track of all these payments – blue stands for published and paid, orange stands for published and unpaid, etc. – to highlight the correct ones. The spreadsheet is more orange than blue, and also contains a huge patch of red – the color of stuff I should be working on.
Admittedly, most of those things are blessedly free from deadlines. And it took me forever to get to that level of red – in the beginning I did not even need a chart to keep track of my work, because I would work on one essay at a time. After it would publish I would agonize over the fact that I had nothing in the pipeline and spend the next few days pitching ideas and letting my anxiety and fear fuel me. Would I ever write again? Was that last essay my final hurrah?
To my shock, this has yet to be the case. In part because of my anxiety, I now have a wealth of editors to pitch to and a long list of essays to write. The problem was that my mind had yet to catch up with my work. I had left my job in August to work on writing full time and it took me until this past dark wintry February to realize that while I had a lot of work I needed to be doing, I would wake up in the morning still unsure of what my schedule was to be that day. Usually I would keep a cluster of notes on an essay before taking the day of the deadline to finish the piece and send it to the editor. I still do this, but at the time it had become unsustainable, as I realized when I had three deadlines for three articles due on the same day. I had to email each editor to ask for more time, and while it worked out fine in the end, I realized I needed more organization in my life.
First, I needed a writing schedule that staggered out my deadlines, anticipated that I would gain work in the future, and gave me an idea of what I needed to accomplish each day. And while I am an anxious person, I’m also very much about looking for any available possible opportunities both in terms of interesting people and interesting work, so my days could be quite nebulous – I wouldn’t know when I would get edits on a certain piece, or hear back about a pitch and either have new work or want to pitch the idea elsewhere. I bought a notebook and created and drew in my own schedule for these things, creating a weekly agenda but with two extra columns: one for what happened beyond my to-do list that would factor into future to-do lists and another for interesting, fun things: having a piece published, finishing a book or watching a TV show, making a new connection, even hearing a nice comment or seeing a friend. The last column was to appease my anxiety — when I felt unproductive or like a failure, a gratitude column gave me a way to put things in perspective.
Second, I reorganized the aforementioned excel spreadsheet. I separated 2014 and 2015, separated what was already published and what was in progress, and made note of what exactly had been paid. After a muddle with invoice numbers, I always checked to see what each check was paying for, and noted when I received them. (I already deposited them immediately through my bank’s mobile app, though. I don’t understand people who wait! It’s your hard-earned money! How can you stand waiting for it?) I’m still waiting on one outlet to pay me – if I don’t get a check this week they will get a flurry of stern emails – but I always feel calmer when I know the rhythms of how a place pays me, even if it takes two months. Yes, I know they all have to pay me, but it’s the same problem as the Anxiety of the Final Essay – if they have yet to pay me, I wonder if they’ll ever pay me.
Third, after reading a particularly horrifying article on how a writer’s clips disappeared from the internet as the sites they worked at went defunct, I archived all my past clips. It was beyond time to do so, anyway – I had enough clips that I couldn’t easily ramble off each one I’d written anymore. I also created subfolders in my “Freelancing” folder, putting invoices and articles and notes in a folder marked with each outlet. It isn’t yet perfect – I still have random documents floating around in that folder – but it’s given me a system to stick to from now on. Now every week, I take about fifteen minutes and update my website (http://sulagnamisra.com) with newly published pieces.
And fourth, I kept track of the money. On the advice of my family’s accountant, I went back through my cards and bank accounts to note my taxable spending in January, February, and March, in order to gear up for paying my first freelance balance in April. I’ve decided to spend about fifteen minutes a week on that as well. I also created sections in my work spreadsheet so I could sum up how much money I had made and could expect to be paid and how much money I could expect to make in the future based on my in progress projects.
I am so, so grateful to my system now, as it saves me a lot of worry and has helped me figure out steps to prevent unneeded stress and burnout from excessive work. Unfortunately, it has also given me the time and mental space to think of new projects. So I might end up creating five, six, or seven more points of organization in my life.
Sulagna Misra, in her own words, is “a freelance writer in New York. She also draws, reads, blogs, reblogs, edits, journals, scribbles, and watches things, like TV and gifs and the bug that just ran across the floor, ahhh!!” Sulagna Misra on Twitter.