freelance

The delicate art of self-promotion for bloggers

By Nina Hendy

So, you want to be a blogger. Or maybe you already are. Presumably, you hope to make a bit of money out of it. But have you considered how you’re actually going to get found for work? After all, there’s some healthy competition in the blogging world, no matter what niche you choose.

As you’re probably aware, being blogger is different to a lot of other industries. You need to consider what your own branding looks like. How much you’re prepared to divulge about yourself in your blogs. You’ll also need to make it clear what you blog about, and why. After all, there’s nothing worse than posts that seem to waffle about everything else than the one thing they actually promote that they’re about.

Here’s some elements to make sure you’re handling your self-promotions with style and grace.

Be confident

If you aren’t inspired by your actions or ideas, others won’t be either. Be confident in what you stand for, and what you’re about. Talk about it with pride. Make your vision as clear and concise as possible. Remember, while your idea mightn’t be new, your expression and approach can be.

Branding

Behind actually being able to string a sentence together, your branding is the next most important element of successful self-promotion as a blogger.

Don’t forget, there’s more bloggers out there than you can poke a stick at. If your branding is memorable and says something about what you do, you’re going to have a far better chance of being remembered by potential clients. This is not a DIY step – it’s always best to hire a specialist such as a graphic designer and web developer able to give you an edgy brand, because it’s got a better chance of being remembered. Same goes for photography – make sure they’re professional and you’ve got a good variety of shots.

Steer clear of those sites that make freelancers bid against each other to get your branding created, because driving down price will affect quality. Accept that you need to pay for quality and seek out a freelancer that get define a branding that feels like a natural fit for you and create it for you.

LinkedIn

Of course, a decent LinkedIn profile an important step, but make sure you take the time to get this right. The mistake many make is not using the summary section of their profile to outline the sort of work they want to land and what their special skills are. This summary should be used to sell what you do well, as opposed to what you’ve done in the past. Some relevant posts can work wonders, too, so consider sharing your blogs on LinkedIn.

SEO

Once you’ve got your website built and you’re off and away with your blogging, how do you actually get your website found? Google may or may not deliver someone searching for a blogger like you to your website on any given day.

Be warned that paying for SEO can be expensive, and that the goalposts change regularly thanks to Google’s ever-changing algorithms.

Blog about blogging

You might also be committed to your own blog schedule, but squeezing in a few extra blogs here and there to share your knowledge and experience is a great way to generate traffic to your site and showcase your specific writing style and area of expertise. Try and share these with relevant titles.

Be an expert

If you’ve been blogging in your niche for a while, you can pretty much call yourself an expert these days. Therefore, look for opportunities to comment on articles and other blog posts on the subject matter you’re proficient in. Or, send out press releases to the media about trends in your area of expertise. Networking is also a great way to position yourself as an expert.

Other spots

If you’re going to monetise your blog, you want to find places to build your online profile.

Nuffnang’s Bloggerati offers a profile page to its top bloggers.

The Freelance Collective also offers talented bloggers the chance to create your own profile page in your own words, a link to your website, social media links – the works.

Profile holders also get a weekly newsletter of tips and freelance advice, access to private Facebook group for support and the chance to find new collaborations.

So remember. Blogging is only one element of your writing career. Self-promotion requires some time and effort so that you’re telling your story succinctly and giving your blog a fighting chance to stand out above the legions of others in the same boat as you.

Nina Hendy is the founder of The Freelance Collective, which gives bloggers and other creative freelancers the chance to create a profile on the site listing all their skills and add samples of their work, allowing clients to reach out and contact them directly with offers of freelance work. Freelancers in 23 categories are listed here, including journalists, bloggers, photographers, videographers and graphic designers. All bloggers are vetted before being made live on the site. It was created after an ongoing frustration of a lack of places to promote their skills to clients at the point at which they’re on the hunt for a freelancer.

The keys to a happy relationship between photographerS and bloggerS

By Mithra Ballesteros

Hi! I’m Mithra (on the right). Before launching my blog and shop eighteen months ago, I knew that great images would be integral to attracting a readership. But I hadn’t worked with a professional photographer in over twenty years.

Then I met Renn (in the hat). She was in photography school and had little experience working freelance with clients. When I interviewed her, she said she would be a good fit for my work because she enjoyed the art of problem-solving in a studio. I loved that answer!

Now we are nearly three years into a great working relationship. We have learned so much together. I wrote this post believing that other bloggers might be interested in what we have figured out.

In this post, I will justify why a long-term partnership is better for both blogger and photographer. I’ll share the keys to a happy long-term relationship and some shortcuts. I’ll list warning signs of a dysfunctional relationship. And I’ll give you the bottom line on when to tweak an arrangement, when to let things ride, and when to say adios amiga

Plus, I’m sharing a downloadable PDF of our handy Photo Log.   

Four Reasons Why a Long-term Partnership is Better for Blogger and Photographer:

1. Cohesive Aesthetics

Ideally, a blog’s photographic style is so consistent that it becomes recognizable to its readers. Creating a joint aesthetic requires the blogger and photographer to experiment with elements that are very technical. Things like lighting, color balance, composition, saturation, set design, etc. Getting over that aesthetic hump is an investment of time. Who wants to repeat that process?

2. Ease of Communication

When blogger and photographer know each other’s likes and expectations, the workflow is more fluid and efficiencies can be captured. A good crop of images is achievable in less time.

3. Rent vs. Own

I don’t like shooting on my own. I cannot be both photographer and stylist at the same time without the image suffering in quality. On the other hand, I can’t afford a full-time in-house photographer. Hiring Renn as my permanent freelance photographer is a happy compromise.

4. Security that Reduces Stress

As a blogger or a small business owner, the myriad of responsibilities induces stress. I am so glad that this one very important area of my workload is absolutely handled. It frees up my brain to worry about – ugh – SEO. 

Mithra and Renn’s Secrets to a Happy Partnership:

1. Professionalism

From the get-go, Renn always showed up on time, with a working camera, extra batteries, and all necessary equipment. On my end, I tried to prepare sets in advance and I always had a yummy meal ready for our break. On the day she submits photos, she also submits an invoice, which I immediately pay in full. We set dates far in advance and we stick to them.

2. Collaboration

We are each other’s assistants. She helps me move furniture. I hold her reflectors. We are each other’s extra set of eyes. We know what needs to be done and we don’t get caught up in strict lines of demarcation over responsibilities.

3. Patience with the Process

Even though we hit it off right away, it took time to reach the level of efficiency at which we now operate. We are still tweaking the process – the way we handle production and post-production deadlines, the storage and delivery of images. We are improving every month.

4. Fun

I think this one should be first on the list because without it, why bother?  

The Warning Signs of a Dysfunctional Fit:

1. A nagging voice in the back of your head that the photographer or blogger doesn’t ‘get you’. This gulf in communication can and will bite you in the butt.  

2. A difference in aesthetics is a big deal. There isn’t a lot of room for compromise on this one. What can I advise on determining if you have a similar aesthetic? Nothing other than, “You’ll know it when you see it.”

3. Lack of follow-through even when communication is effective and expectations are clearly understood. Or unprofessional behavior such as missed deadlines, late payments, lack of preparation, substandard work.

Bottom Line: The Three Legs of a Freelance Stool

Not everything will be perfect. But there are three legs to a freelance stool: good communication, a similar aesthetic, and professionalism. If you have three of those legs, you’re golden. Two of those legs? You can still produce great work while also improving the weak leg. But if you have only one leg of that stool? Time to say Adios!

Shortcuts!

1. Know your photo dimensions in advance. Compose your shots with some room to spare for cropping. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a set, shoot it horizontally, vertically, pulled back, and tight.

2. Paint color is tricky! How color looks to the naked eye is not how it appears through a camera lens. Take a photograph of a color swatch under studio lights to get a feel.

3. Box lights are versatile and not much more of an investment than a light box.

4. Create a system from the beginning for naming and storing photos. Whether you organize based on date, color scheme, intent of use, or some other category, the system should be logical for your needs.

Here is the Photo Log that I devised for our shoots.

Thanks for reading to the bottom! I hope you found some value in our experience.

Mithra Ballesteros is a shopkeeper at FinderNotKeeper.com where she sells instant, pop-up collections of vintage art and objects. She blogs about her small business adventures at TheBubbleJoy.com. Renn Kuhnen lives in Milwaukee and works full-time in the photography studio for The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. She maintains a thriving freelance photography business on the side.  

Photo Credits: Renn Kuhnen


No, you can’t always love what you do

By Rebekah Lambert

Being in business is fashionable. Along with it are the concepts of loving what you do and never working a day in your life.

It’s wonderful to live in a time where we’re able to fashion the sort of career that gives you satisfaction. And it’s great that technology allows many of us to grab hold of what we do by both horns and make a red hot go of things.

But you can’t always love what you do.

You don’t have the business equivalent of a Mills and Boon romance happening every day. And because you don't doesn’t mean you should feel like you’re missing out.

Here’s why loving what you do isn’t always possible. And why it doesn’t matter.

It takes time to establish

Have you ever heard of someone who was an overnight success? I know I haven’t. Beyond every giant company and business personality is a story of waiting, working, sweating and putting their butt on the line.

Socrates famously said "A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does."

All entrepreneurship is a process of learning. It’s about discovering who we are and what excites us. We refine as we go and grow in the strength of that knowledge.

Like teenage infatuation versus real lasting love, you’ll be in better stead to go the distance.

Learn to love your endeavours over time instead of expecting an instant teenage attraction. 

It can become your day job

I was talking to a fellow freelancer recently. They spoke of their plans to extend their business far beyond the reaches of their current offering.

“Freelancing has become my day job. You know what I mean?”

Yes, I think any entrepreneur or freelancer can understand what she meant. 

Sometimes even the most successful of endeavours can get a little boring after a while. 

Call it the five year wall, call it the fact you’ve gotten to a plateau after toiling for so long. Whatever you call it, it’s important to understand that sometimes our entrepreneurship baby grows up. 

And we feel like nurturing a part of ourselves that is no longer satiated by the existing format. The challenge has left the building. 

This realisation for a passion-based business can be devastating. This is especially if there is no clear view of the “what next?”

Sometimes, you’ll have to plug through until it gets to a point where the next challenge can become the main stay of income. That doesn’t mean you’re doing yourself a disservice by not being as gleeful to get out of bed as the entrepreneur down the road.

It might simply mean you have to spend time figuring out what your next move is. And that’s perfectly fine. Maybe you have to bide your time until you can jump off the blocks in a new direction. 

And if you have to work until you find the next bright idea, there’s no shame in that either. A caring, thoughtful entrepreneur has doubts. Lots of them. 

And working through them is far better than choosing a new direction in a panic. 

You need more than love

“I just love dogs!” 

I was speaking to someone recently about their business. I’m a crazy dog lady- so I can relate to this statement. However, it’s not reason enough to model your whole financial future around it. 

The focal point of the conversation centered on the love of dogs and the assumption other people make money through walking and day-care services. 

While admirable, without research or a plan, the love of dogs simply won’t be enough to propel this person forward to action. By the time they decide to take the leap, it may be too late. 

Most people don’t love research. But it’s what you need to undertake to be able to see where the opportunity resides. 

There’s no point in starting a dog business in a town full of cats. Or in one where dog walkers outnumber the dogs, 2 to 1. 

Your passion should never be ignorant of the audience that may share it. Nor should it ignore that being on-trend instead of setting the trend can be a massive negative. 

Less love and more problem solving

You don’t need to love a business idea or have a great burning passion for it to have it succeed. 

And you can love the concept behind your endeavours as much as you want. But if customers aren’t buying it, all the passion in the world won’t keep your business afloat for long. 

What makes for a successful business is not what you love. It’s what your customer’s love. 

And to get that love, you need to solve a problem for your customer. 

Don’t be the person who thinks foisting your passion onto people will make them want to buy it. It needs to mean something to them, too.  

Instead, think about how you can inspire love from your customers. 

Think about how you can alleviate their pain or invigorate their passion. Give them something to admire, respect and care about you for. Build an endeavour that makes your audience care. 

That way, no matter what you put out there, you’ll always be happy and content with your work. Don’t you agree? 

Rebekah Lambert makes her living as marketing, content creation and copywriting freelancer, Unashamedly Creative. Rebekah has begun a mission to improve the mental health and wellness outcomes for freelancers and entrepreneurs as Hacking Happiness. She believes stress has a productivity cost many entrepreneurs ignore. You can follow her journey via Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Photo Credits: Ben Rosett & Jan Vasek through Stocksnap

Finding freedom in self-employment

By Jess Van Den

Freedom is one of my major motivators in life. It's a big part of why I am my own boss and run a business instead of having a job.

Part of what I love about this freedom is that I can travel where and when I want to. I love exploring the world – getting out and seeing new places and new faces. I think travel expands us and wakes us up to life in a way little else does – and I am a confirmed (and contented) sufferer of 'itchy feet' syndrome. If I'm not travelling, and I don't have a trip of some sort planned within the next month or two ahead of me, I start to get a little stir-crazy!

Thankfully, the only limitations on the travel I can do are the ones I set for myself. I can plan my business goals around my travels, rather than having to plan my travels around my job.

I'm in an interesting situation, in that I run two businesses – one of which is completely location-independent, and one which is less so.

Create & Thrive – my handmade education biz – is run purely online, so all I need to keep that business running is my laptop, smartphone, an internet connection and a few other tech accessories. I don't plan on taking any time off from C&T this year for that reason – despite the fact that in 2015 I will be away from home for a total of 5 months out of 12 (including 3 months on the other side of the world, travelling in the UK and Europe).

My other business – Epheriell, which I sell through Etsy – is a little less mobile, since it's a handmade silver jewellery business. That said, as I write this article, I am sitting in my campervan in caravan park in the little seaside town of Robe in South Australia – over 2,000km away from home, part-way through a month-long road trip. And my husband (who happens to work with me in the biz) and I have been making jewellery on the way. In fact, he's outside the van cutting out silver to make rings as I type!

My point is that no matter what you do, most creative businesses have the possibility of being location-independent to a certain extent. It all depends on what tools and materials you need to keep your biz running, and how willing you are to experiment with your equipment and your work/life integration in order to do things a little bit differently.

If you've considered travelling with your business, I've got a few pieces of advice for you before you take the leap.

How Mobile is Your Business?

If you run a business that sells non-physical products, you're pretty much guaranteed to be able to take your business on the road. There are a huge number of digital nomads around these days – people who travel either part or all of the time, running their businesses as they go. For one example of someone who does this – and teaches how to make it happen – check out Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

So long as you plan ahead in order to ensure you have an internet connection (and electricity, depending on the sort of travel you plan on doing!) when you need it to hit your deadlines, you're golden.

If you've got a handmade or product-based-business, things get a little trickier.

If you have the capacity to travel with a campervan or caravan, chances are you can probably take your biz on the road. You just have to figure out how to store and access all your tools and materials, and how and where you are actually going to do your work during your trip.

We have all our tools and materials pared down to the absolute minimum, and we've (well, Nick has) built a mobile work-bench based on a collapsible saw-horse that we use in combination with a folding table to do all our work on while we travel. You also need to think about security – we have all our raw materials (i.e. our silver) locked away in a safe that's bolted to our van. Make sure anything expensive is secured out of sight. And make sure you have insurance on your vehicle that covers the loss of anything inside it! We have special campervan insurance for this very reason.

It can also be quite an adventure to find somewhere suitable to set up to do our work – some of what we do is quite loud, so that's not something you want to be doing in a campsite full of holiday-makers. Planning ahead for 'work days' is a good way to get around this. And if you're travelling on the road in Australia, make sure to get the WikiCamps app on your phone to make sourcing work-spots (and campsites!) super-easy.

It may be that your business is so mobile that you can even take it overseas (maybe you hand-embroider?). Or it may be that your tools are far too big to take travelling (perhaps you use a big letter press).

That said, there may just be ways around that obstacle if you think outside the box. For example, maybe you want to go house-sit in another city for a month – chances are you can find someone local from whom you can hire the use of bigger machines or tools while you're there, while you can take smaller items with you in your luggage – or even post them to yourself!

Whatever you do, it's super-important to plan ahead so you have all the technology and tools you need for your trip. Do a test-run or test-pack before you leave, and have a list that you tick off as you go.

Do you need your smartphone, tablet, laptop, camera, diary, notebook, pens? Do you have your SD cards? Have you got all the right cords to charge everything and connect everything that needs to be connected? Do you need a power adapter if you’re going overseas or into another country? Do you have that particular small tool that you only use for a fraction of your designs, but would find it impossible to do without?

It’s no fun to get going and realise that you’ve left something important (and expensive!) at home that you need to do your work.

Not only that – make sure you have all the non-physical tools you need for your work. Do you have all the apps or software you’ll need pre-installed (or updated) on your devices BEFORE you leave home? You don’t want to be downloading that stuff with your mobile internet allowance!

Also make sure you've taken advantage of the cloud, and have any info you'll need during your trip at your fingertips. If you’re going away but know there’s stuff (photos, files etc) that you’ll need that are currently stored on your home computer, ensure you’ve uploaded them all to some sort of cloud software before you leave.

Try Google Drive or Dropbox (or the i-equivalent) to ensure you’re not stuck without that crucial document or photo during your trip.

How Much Time do you Want to Spend Working?

The thing to remember about working while travelling is that it's very hard to do the same volume of work on the road that you do at home.

After all – you're travelling! You're seeing new sites, exploring new places, and taking photos for Instagram. You don't want to be stuck in your hotel room while your partner/family are out enjoying the sights because you have to catch up on emails. Blergh.

The most important thing you can do here is prepare yourself for this reality – and don't fool yourself into thinking you can keep up the same volume of work – it's just not going to happen.

However, a nice consequence of this is that you might find yourself working much more efficiently and with more focus because you don't have the time to waste mucking about on Facebook. Setting goals, planning ahead, and being organised will save your sanity when it comes to working on the road. Know what your non-negotiable work is, and make time in your schedule to get it done.

One golden tip here is to take advantage of 'waiting time'.

There will no doubt be lots of travelling and waiting time on your journey – whether that’s time in a plane, train, or in the passenger seat of the car. If your stomach allows it, this is a great time to get the bulk of your computer-based work done, so that when you’re stopped at a destination, you can fully engage with your family and friends and really enjoy yourself.

Another good time to work is early morning before you head out for the day, or late at night once everyone’s tuckered out and asleep.

When we’re road-tripping, I do the vast majority of my computer-based work in the passenger seat while Nick’s driving. This works well for us, for while we both like driving, he hates being in the passenger seat – so I just take that place and get my work done, and when we reach our next destination, I can relax and enjoy just hanging out with him.

When we're running Epheriell on the road, we plan ahead for 'making time' – and when we set up, we both focus and get to work in order to get everything made in the minimum time possible. We don't sacrifice quality – but we do 'sacrifice' the inefficiencies that creep into your work process when you're in your comfort zone, working in your regular space. It can be a really great education into how much wasted time you actually have when you're working at home, even if you don't think you do before you set out.

Finally, as far as possible, get work done before you leave. If there are any big projects you can complete early, do your best to get them done so you don't have the stress of completing them on top of your regular workload while you travel.

Do you Really Need to be Working on this Trip?

This is a really important question to ask yourself. When you're self-employed, it is so, so tempting to be working all. the. time. and never take a proper holiday, even when you're travelling, because you DO have the ability to work as you travel.

But do you really need to be working on that next trip?

I ask myself this question whenever I plan a trip. I look at my year overall - I look at where I'm going and what my goals are for that trip. For most of the trips I do, I continue to run Create & Thrive while I'm travelling, because it's so easy to do so.

However, I do take some time off even from that once and a while – because everyone needs a complete break now and again! With Epheriell, things are a bit easier – whenever I'm going overseas, I can't run the biz (though, if I'm only going on a short trip, I often leave the business open for orders while I'm away, while explicitly explaining the subsequent delay on orders to all my customers prior to them ordering). Therefore, I plan to only have a certain amount of time overseas each year so I'm not closing the biz too often. After all – when I'm not making jewellery, I'm not making any money from Epheriell, either!

So, before you plan your next adventure, make sure to be realistic and honest with yourself. 

Do you REALLY need to be working on this trip? Or would you be better off taking an actual holiday, rather than just working from another locale?

Finally, Don't be too Hard on Yourself

Unless you're planning to travel and work all the time – to become a digital nomad – don't beat yourself up if you don’t ‘keep up’ with work quite to the level you usually do when you're working at home. Travelling will always present you with unforeseen 'adventures'.

There will be times when you think you’ll have internet reception and you won’t. There will be times that you come across a random adventure and that hour you set aside to answer emails just doesn’t happen.

Let yourself off the hook a little and just enjoy the moment. Don’t spoil it by stressing about the work you ‘should’ be doing. It will still be there when you get to it. People will understand if you take a little longer to respond to emails – especially if you’ve publicised that you’re travelling.

In order to reduce your own stress levels about this, make the fact you are travelling really clear wherever possible (on your website, email signature, social media), and that this might mean a few delays here and there. The majority of people will be super-understanding about this, so long as you do the best you can by them! You might even find they good-naturedly chide you about working when you should be enjoying yourself.

After all – you're living the dream that so many people have. You're embracing the freedom that comes from having your own business – the freedom to run things your way, and to get out and experience the world while still bringing in the money you need.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Have you worked while travelling? What advice would you give others about to do the same?

Jess Van Den is a self­-employed silversmith working under the Epheriell label. She's been making jewellery since 2008, when she opened her Etsy shop to sell her jewellery as a hobby, and turned Epheriell into her full­-time occupation in 2010 ­bringing her husband Nick on board soon after. She specialises in eco sterling silver wedding rings, and works out of her solar­-powered home studio in the countryside north of Brisbane,Australia. She's also the founder and editor of Create & Thrive, where people learn how to turn their handmade hobby into a full­-time business from those who've done just that.

 


How To Hire A Creative Freelancer // Blog Biz

By Gretchen Harnick

The freedom guaranteed in owning your own creative enterprise online means you can work when and where you want. It means you can tailor your products to finding that niche audience all over the world. And it means you can serve your customers in your own unique way. It’s the dream of many! 

But the path cannot be forged alone. There come times when you need to hire a creative freelancer to support building the business, or simply receiving business coaching along the journey.  But how do you survey this vast, international landscape to find the right creative partner? Where is that far away creative kin who sees your vision and quickly grabs your design sensibilities? Is it possible to find the exact right designer, copywriter or developer after a 30-minute call? You have to take a chance, trust your intuition and be crystal clear when interviewing someone.  9 times out of 10 the person you are considering to hire will say “Yes, I love your project and your company. I can totally help you.” But I’m here to tell you that just because they love your project, it doesn’t mean they are right for you. 

As my company Pattern to Plan is a fashion-focused business based in NYC, I tend to find a lot of people get excited about working together. But when the work comes back with cliché fashion imagery or inconsistent and scattered ideas, I have to hit the breaks and rally my inner Anna. By this I mean my inner Anna Wintour, the ice queen and Editor of Vogue or quite possibly the character based on The Devil Wears Prada.  My inner Anna stands for high quality and I push ‘til I get it. It all boils down to knowing what you need and what you want to accomplish through this relationship. I’ve created Pinterest boards to communicate my target client to web designers. I’ve completed 4 page long questionnaires for copywriters.  I hired the first designer for my site and as the work started rolling in I was stunned. It was no where near my style standards and even after sharing the target customer imagery, I continued to receive work that would not be acceptable. This was a somewhat costly mistake, however an investment in my process. Knowing the next person I hired would be screened deeper, challenged more and pushed to get it right. 

Because at the end of the day it is your company, your aesthetic and your brand on the line.  I equate it with a clothing boutique, as I had my own shop for a couple of years. I would not design the store logo, and promotional material to look one way and then carry dresses and handbags which reflected something different. And don’t worry if you still receive work that is not 100% your own voice. I end up editing out the quirky remarks or bizarre references my customers may not understand. I am comfortable with my inner Anna, and release her when necessary in order to make this business as strong as it needs to be. Because isn’t that’s why we have our own business in the first place?! 

Follow Gretchen and her inner Anna over at Pattern To Plan and on Instagram. Send her an email to say hi. I promise she's lovely! Gretchen@patterntoplan.com