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Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Freelancer Should Consider Making
Surely there is no better time of year to improve your lot than just after New Year’s? After all, the infectious optimism which hovers over the beginning of January can be the perfect fuel to ignite that ‘can-do’ attitude which has a way of falling by the wayside throughout the rest of the year.
Most people would agree. Indeed, the fact that gym membership sign-ups tend to go through the roof at this time of year while sales of alcohol and cigarettes often take a modest (yet normally pretty brief) tumble during January and February is testament to the fact many of us feel the onset of a brand new year gives us the impetus we need to improve ourselves – and in particular, our health – and increase our chances of being a ‘better’ person from now on.
Of course, this drive toward self-improvement is to be welcomed. However, we shouldn’t just limit ourselves to the all too familiar resolutions of getting fitter and cutting down on fags and booze. For sure, we can use this time of year as a springboard to facilitate some positive changes in our vocational habits too.
Naturally, this applies more profoundly to self-employed freelancers than it does to salaried employees as freelance professionals have the authority and ability to effect change whenever and however they like.
So, here in no particular order, are five New Year’s resolutions which every freelancer should think about making this January:
#1 Be More Productive
Even with the best will in the world, it is hard for freelancers to match the levels of productivity which most salaried employees knock out week after week. The reason for this is simple: you’re the boss when you’re a freelancer and so you are unlikely to give yourself a written warning every time your urge to check Facebook or have one last go on your new console game eats into your established work time.
So what can you do to be more productive? How can you make yourself do more work than you’re already doing?
Well, one of the best strategies is to emulate those healthy eating documentary programmes you see on the telly and keep an accurate record of the actual time you spend working over the course of the week. If you do this honestly then you will soon discover that there is a definite difference between the time you spend at work and the time you spend working. Once you identify the flaws in your work timetable and highlight the areas which are most in need of improvement, you can use open-source time tracking software and project management/to-do list packages to help you stay on the straight-and-narrow and ensure distractions are kept well and truly in check.
#2 Up Your Rates
“Up my rates? Are you out of your mind??” I know it may sound contrary to common sense when much of the western world is still hovering around recession, but the fact is charging too little can often be more debilitating to your income than charging what you may perceive to be too much. Whilst it is naturally sensible to charge modest fees that will attract initial business and undercut the competition when first starting out as a freelancer, maintaining low rates can actually scare off more lucrative prospects as potential clients often associate low rates with low quality: “You get what you pay for”, and all that...
“How much should I charge then?” will undoubtedly be your next question.
The best way to assess your ‘worth’ is to take a look at other freelancers in your field and find out what they are charging (their rates will probably be available for all to see on consumer websites and/or social media profiles). Talking to other self-employed people working within your niche on forums can also be very helpful. Once you have ascertained your new value, notify all of your current clients of the increase and explain to them why your rates have increased (having some statistics to throw at them can be beneficial). You may feel that any rate increase is likely to scare clients off; the truth is though, most people who have been pleased with your work up ‘till now will be happy enough to accommodate a relatively modest rate increase; some may even expect it at this time of the year too.
#3 Spread the Word
If you’re doing ‘okay’ as a freelancer at the moment then chances are you’re a relatively well known face in your vocational circles. But think how much better you could be doing if those circles were made bigger or there were more of them. Think how much extra work you could get if your face (or avatar) was known by many more people. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should be advertising your business on prime time TV or putting a mugshot of yourself on the side of buses: I’m simply talking about raising your profile online so that the tentacles of your business will extend even further into the commercial marketplace.
Making the most of social media and online networking is undoubtedly the cheapest and easiest way to build and grow your brand. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can reach thousands of potential clients in just one day so it is vital you use them to maximum effect. This means not just putting on the odd example of your latest project for your close friends to be impressed by, but to upload engaging, professional-looking content on a regular basis. While you won’t see any miraculous transformations overnight, you will experience a gradual increase in brand awareness over time which will eventually - and probably when you least expect it – pay dividends.
#4 Keep Learning
If you’ve been freelancing for a while now then you may well consider yourself to be a bit of a veteran, a seasoned pro who knows exactly what’s what. This is a mistake. Now I’m not challenging your experience or abilities; no sir. What I am challenging is the notion that someone can get to a point in life where they feel as though they know it all.
You don’t. Nobody does.
This is perhaps more relevant today than it has ever been as the Digital Age ensures new discoveries and developments in all vocational spheres are being revealed and espoused every single day. If you sit back on your laurels, adhere vehemently to the status quo and plead deliberate ignorance then you and your business will do no more than plod on safely while your more broadminded competitors zip past you and leave you for dust.
The phrase ‘Every day is a school day’ is a good one to keep in mind in this context. If you remain open-minded to new developments and commit to broadening your horizons every chance you get, you will not only increase your chances of being an innovator in your field, you will also become a more worldly, well-informed and engaging person. And that can only be good for you and your future prospects...
#5 Reignite Your Passion
Remember how pumped you felt when you first decided to become a freelancer? Remember that charged feeling you had when your self-employed status came through and you could refer to yourself as an ‘official freelancer’? Felt pretty special didn’t it?
Of course, the passage of time is such that most novelties lose their appeal after a while. Indeed, it is simply human nature that most people tend to take the things they desire most - be they people, goods or vocations – for granted once they become the norm.
The thing is though, working with passion, doing a job you love, is a very real treat and remembering that can help to get you through some tough times. Being your own boss, getting to see your kids every day, creating success through your own personal endeavour, staying in bed when everyone else is commuting, taking time off over Christmas, working from home, being far removed from office politics: these are all things which make freelancing so wonderful.
Of course, it’s not easy; it’s not well paying (normally), and it’s not dependable, but that doesn’t matter. Freelancing is something that almost everybody would jump at the chance to do if they could – and you get to do it every day.
You’re lucky. Very lucky indeed. Fall back in love with your freelancing and, to paraphrase Confucius, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Now that sounds like a pretty good way to start the New Year to me...