7 Red Flags That You Are Being Scammed

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We all would like the world to be filled with honest, wonderful people who always have the best intentions. Unfortunately, that isn’t reality. There are people out there who want to take advantage of others in various ways and that doesn’t end with freelancing.

There are people out there who want to take advantage of YOU as a freelancer.

In my 13+ years I have had my share of scammers who have come across my path. And yes, I am sad to say that in the beginning, when I didn’t know any better, I fell for one or two.  I am a very trusting person, and even now, I sometimes think maybe I should trust them even when the signs are there.

However, I did wise up over the years and I don’t fall for that shit anymore. And I can tell you there are certain red flags you should watch for as a freelancer when clients are trying to scam you:

1. They Don’t Have a History on the Platform

If you are on a freelance platform you can see the history of everyone else on that platform. Upwork is particularly good for this. You can see their feedback and ratings, how long they have been a member of Upwork, how much they have paid out for projects and how many projects they have posted and hired for, and even whether or not their payment method is verified.

If a client is new and doesn’t have any of this, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a scammer. They might truly be a new client. They might not have a history on the platform and they might be in the process of having their payment method verified. But you have to be wary. Particularly if any of these other red flags come up in conjunction with this one.

If you are working off platform, then you need to verify this client exists. Ask for their web address and references. Find out if they are on reputable sites, such as LinkedIn. Check out their internet presence and if you can’t find one or don’t feel good about it, don’t work with them.

2. They Want to Communicate Off the Platformicons-847262_640

All freelance platforms have their own method of communication. There will be a message board with live chat. There will be a way to upload files. There will be a way to make and accept payments.

Now, I have had plenty of clients who really do just prefer to use Skype because it’s more convenient for them. But the scammers out there will want that too. They will not want a history of your conversation on a platform they don’t plan to use. It’s safest if you communicate via the platform, but if you don’t, then at least be sure the client is reputable and has a history on the platform.

3. They Aren’t Willing to Pay a Deposit

If you are working on a platform, and it’s a good platform, they should have an escrow system. This will do when it comes to a deposit. Your client funds the escrow and you can rest assured the money is there. However, that might not work when it comes to all platforms or when you work on an hourly basis.

However, a good platform will guarantee your pay. So, if your client stiffs you, you’ll be paid all the same. The platform has safeguards in place, such as a method to live-track hours worked, to ensure your work and time are protected.

If you are working off a platform, then you must request a deposit. This is one of the primary reasons to do so. If you are dealing with a scammer, they won’t pay it. If they aren’t willing to pay the deposit, they won’t be paying you later. And since it’s common practice to request a deposit, if they aren’t a scammer and they don’t want to pay it, then too bad for them. They will lose a great service provider and they’ll have trouble finding another one.

4. They Offer a Rate of Pay that Is Too Good To Be Truepaper-3147856_640

When a client wants to do business with you and they have a big budget, but haven’t offered a specific rate of pay per word or article, this might not be a good thing. Particularly if you have to ask what the pay is. When you ask and they answer with what’s your rate and they automatically accept that rate without any question — red flag!

This is especially true when your rate is substantial. Essentially, they are willing to accept any rate because they’re never going to pay it. They just want to get you on board and they’ll tell you anything you want to hear. Yet, at the same time, these clients are very much sticklers for wanting work to be done right away and don’t seem flexible on that.

5. They Send Project Details in a Zipped Folder or File

If anyone ever tries to send you project details in a zipped folder, often times a .rar folder, run away! And definitely do NOT open the folder. If you do, you are just asking for malware to end up on your computer.

6. They Want You to Do a Test Job

No free samples. Period. Maybe at a discount, but not free. Most reputable clients will be perfectly willing to pay for the samples they order. Clients that don’t may just be looking for free work. You might think you’re only writing a single article, so how much can they benefit from that. But if they have 10 potential service providers writing samples on 10 different topics, next thing you know, they are making off with 10 articles and they never paid a cent. Yes, this happens.

7. They Won’t Sign a Contractconditions-624911_1920

Honestly, enough said. No signing, no work.

Most often, you will see more than one of these red flags with a single scammer. But even when you see them on their own, be on your guard. It could be a newbie client who is just learning the ropes. Although, to be honest, clients that don’t know the ropes should be dwindling in number as the freelance game continues to grow and dominate the working world.

Have you had experience with scammers or do you have questions? Feel free to use the comments section below to let us know!

Cheers, Karen

 

5 Reasons Email Marketing Is Gold for Your Freelance Business

email-us-1805514_1280Did you know that the return on investment for email marketing is $44 for every dollar spent?

That’s a return of 4,300%!

In the UK, this figure is more than £32 for every £1 spent. That is mighty impressive for a method of communication many people feel is outdated and going the way of the dinosaurs. But the truth is email is still very much alive and it is still the most popular form of electronic communication.

In 2018, there were 3.8 billion email users around the globe, a number that is expected to be as high as 4.4 billion by 2023. Compare that to the 3.2 billion social media users worldwide. Not only that, but in 2018 there were over 281 billion emails sent EVERY DAY! Yet in the same year, there were only 60 million messages sent via Facebook, 500 million tweets made, and 95 million photos uploaded to Instagram each day.

OK, so enough with the numbers already, right? But they are proof that email is a very effective form of marketing. So, how can you use it in your freelance business? Well, the idea behind email marketing is that you can build a list of subscribers who you can communicate with easily on a regular basis.

Yes, you can communicate with clients and potential clients in other ways, such as social media, but email is so much more effective. And here are five reasons why:

1. Relationshipsinternet-1028794_1920

Email is the most effective way to build relationships with leads and strengthen relationships with current clients. You can speak to them directly, give them valuable information and content on a consistent basis, and let them get to know you. It’s personal, it can be highly targeted, and it’s a tried and true method of communication.

2. You’re More Likely to Get Noticed

When you communicate via social media, your post might be seen and it might not. Not everyone has time to do more than skim their news feed on Facebook and on other forms of social media posts are lost in the massive waves of posts that happen every minute — if your leads/clients don’t catch it right away, they probably won’t.

But with email it’s different. It goes right to their inbox, something they check every single day, usually multiple times per day. Your email won’t get lost in the shuffle. And as long as you have a fabulous subject line and you have established a relationship with them, they will actually WANT to open your emails.

3. You Can Connect with Higher Paying Clients

I posted previously about the benefits of freelance platforms. And I stand by what I said that platforms have their place. But in that post I also said that you don’t want platforms to be your sole source of freelance work. After all, there are so many clients on those sites that don’t pay well and you really have to work hard to find the good ones.

Ultimately, you want the bulk of your clients to come from outside the platforms. Whether you advertise, promote your website and blog on sites like LinkedIn, query individual businesses, or get referrals for potential clients you want to capture these leads. And that is what your email list is for. You can add their email to your list — with their permission of course — and then you can connect with them anytime and in any way you want.

4. You Can Automate Itemail-3249062_1280

You’re busy — I know it. I know I’m busy. Every freelancer is busy. If we aren’t busy with work, we’re busy looking for new clients. And the last thing you have time for is sending out dozens of messages to the leads and clients you already have.

Yet, this is the most important thing you can do for your business.

Fortunately, with email marketing, you can set it and forget it. Yes, you can completely automate the process. You can have your welcome email series set up and automatically sent out every time you get a new lead. You can write your broadcast emails and schedule them to be sent on certain days and at certain times. You can target specific clients on your list and send them specific reminders and offers.

None of this will take a lot of time and it will keep you connected with each and every person on your list. It’s a win-win!

5. You Won’t Break the Bankmoney-2696219_1920

Email marketing is surprisingly inexpensive. You are saving time, personalizing your contact with your leads and clients, connecting with every one of them as needed and all for a few dollars a month. It’s really one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to manage your communication with leads and clients.

Really, email marketing should be a part of your overall marketing initiative. Am I saying social media or any other form of contact is unnecessary or should be ignored? Not at all! All the ways to connect with clients, leads, and consumers in general are valid and have their place. I’m just saying that email marketing is proven to get results and can be of great benefit to your freelance business.

Do you have experience with email marketing in your freelance business? If so, tell us about it in the comments section below!

Cheers, Karen

5 Barriers That Once Kept Me From Achieving Freelance Success

city-walls-164825_1920Perhaps that title should read “5 Things That Kept Me From Achieving The Freelance Success I Deserve.” But we’ll get to that. I’ve had a long, tiring, and stressful week. And although everything is fine, it got me thinking about what I have learned over the years as a freelancer.

In a nutshell? Even though I have achieved a great amount of success as a freelancer and even though I am growing my business and operating at a higher frequency in life than I ever have, I’ve learned that sometimes things take a slide backward.

But that’s OK.

Because it’s things like this that help us grow — IF we are open to that growth! We have to see that the opportunity for growth is there. We have to embrace it and run with it. And we have to stay away from these five things that WILL hold us back from success:

1. ComplacencyAdobeStock_39078138.jpeg

It’s so easy to get into a rut, to simply go through the motions. It’s so easy to take for granted the fact that just because you are in a good place, you will stay in that good place. And it’s easy to let your guard down, to get lazy. I certainly don’t think I speak for myself here.

And that is human nature. Don’t take action until something bad propels you to do so. When I was in high school, there was one pocket of the small city I lived in that was accessible by one road and one road only — and that road went across train tracks.

For years people talked about how an overpass should be built so that emergency vehicles could get through even if a train was running. But it wasn’t until someone died because that very scenario happened that action was taken.

One of my favorite quotes from the book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War sums it up nicely:

Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.”

So, know that things will happen — or growth will stop happening — if you grow complacent. Your life is NOT immune to it.

2. Avoidance

It’s so easy to avoid things we don’t want to deal with. In fact, people often tend to do this. They don’t want to have a scary conversation. They don’t want to return calls and avoid answering the phone. They want to avoid confrontation at all costs. Or avoid dealing with their finances — which can mean complete business failure for the self-employed.

There is actually a term for this — avoidance coping. And it’s not a good thing.

Now, I used to avoid things a lot. I never really learned how to deal with a lot of things when I was growing up and I’ve learned the hard way. I rarely avoid things these days, and if I do, I don’t do it for long. I pull myself out of it and deal. Because here’s the thing:

  • It’s never as bad as you think it is.
  • It WILL get that bad if you avoid it.
  • You do NOT want to live with that dark cloud over you all the time.

So, face the things you need to face in life, the bad as well as the good.

3. Taking Your Eye Off the Prizewinner-1548239_1920

This can be at least partly due to complacency. It can also happen for a lot of other reasons, including the two I will discuss below. But if you want to achieve something, you can’t let yourself get distracted!

Over the holidays, I took a part-time job at our local bookstore. I realized that it really cut into my freelance work time too much. I’m still flex staff and rarely work there right now. I took the job to have something fun to do to get out of the house, but I there is no way I can commit to more than 5 or so hours a week, which means I will likely never do more than flex. I make way more money with my freelance career.

And I have BIG things planned as I grow my freelance business!

That is where my focus needs to be. I want to help my clients have awesome content and I want to help people — particularly women — succeed as freelancers. That is the prize — well one of two prizes I am focused on, the other being breaking into screenwriting.

What is your prize? Whatever it is, everything you do MUST be focused on it. If you take your eyes off that prize, you won’t reach it.

4. Getting Discouragedmetaphor-1209691_1920

Every one of us will experience failure — multiple times. And when that happens, when we make mistakes and fall down, it can be so easy to just give up. In fact, that’s what most people do, if they have the courage to even get started in the first place.

But all the most successful people out there, the ones who make it look effortless, they ALL failed so many times on their way to success. Check this out:

  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts TWICE! Speaking of mistakes, clearly they were wrong.
  • Walt Disney’s newspaper editor told him he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Clearly he was also wrong.
  • Sir Richard Branson has had numerous Virgin companies fail.
  • J.K Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 12 publishers before it found a home. I bet every one of them came to regret that decision.
  • Sylvester Stallone was rejected 1,500 times when he was trying to sell his Rocky script. It’s a good thing he never gave up!

So, never give up. I have never totally given up on my goals and dreams. But I sure have put off a lot of things because they didn’t start out well. Fortunately, I keep coming back. And what I have learned is that when I am feeling badly, for whatever reason, I just channel that energy into whatever I need to do to change it. So if you feel negative energy due to failure or fear or anything else…

Use that energy! Channel it! Knock it out of the park!

5. Not Believing

Another quote from World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War that is SO appropriate here is:

When I believe in my ability to do something, there is no such word as no.”

This has been a HUGE problem for me throughout my life. But no more. I am fighting against this horribly negative and limiting belief and I am changing it. I believe I can do whatever I want. The future I want is already there for me. I just have to take the action I need to take to reach it.

This is a fact!

Unfortunately, a lot of people lack confidence in themselves and what they can achieve — especially women. If this isn’t an issue for you, then yay! And if it is, then you are NOT alone. Just remember that if you don’t believe you can do something, you won’t do it. Period. Like Henry Ford said:

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.

So, believe that you CAN!!!

If you have had any experience with these barriers to success and you want to share, we would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Cheers, Karen

My Journey to Freelance N’ Freedom

fullsizeoutput_196c (1)Tired of the 9 to 5 and not at all feeling alive? This described me and what my life had come to at the end of 2017. It sounds so cliché, but I knew there had to be more for me to do out there.

After going through a horrible divorce in 2016, I knew it was time for a change. I did some research and quickly learned that there were thousands of men and women who were freelancing and running their own businesses while traveling the world at the same time.

Ever since my first experience studying in Spain in college, I have had the urge and passion to travel. While my Project Manager job at Harvard University offered excellent benefits and vacation, I felt that it was not for me. Why couldn’t I have the freedom to travel when I wanted and work from where I wanted like the thousands of other digital nomads that I had encountered in my search? I decided that I could and I would.

In the fall of 2017, I had had enough with the 9-5 office job, Harvard politics, Boston winters, and limited freedom to travel. I decided to start freelancing part-time and work one more year to save as much money as I could. In September of 2018, I left my job at Harvard and moved with my partner to Miami, Florida.

My journey inspired me to create my Virtual Project Management business. I went full-time on September 15th, 2018 and officially registered it as Freelance N’ Freedom. During my five years at Harvard, I was able to learn top-notch customer service skills, new project management skills, successfully run numerous conferences and events both local and international, and participate in the Harvard Mentoring program.

I also graduated with my Masters from Harvard in International Relations in May, 2018. Now, I primarily work with women entrepreneurs who have multiple businesses themselves. I support them in the areas of event planning, project/vendor management, creating and scheduling social media content, general administrative help, and doing research.

Since September, I myself have visited 6 new countries to add to my 54 countries total since I started traveling at age 19. It is my goal in 2019 to visit a new country every month, all while helping other women succeed in their businesses. While working for myself has been a challenge at times, it allows me to pursue my goals, while helping other women pursue theirs, which is very rewarding.

Freelance N’ Traveling

While social media and the internet may portray freelancing and traveling as all glamorous, I have found that this is far from the truth. Working and traveling is tough work! It requires organization, discipline, scheduling, balance, and budgeting. At the same time, it can also be amazing! Here are six tips to help you be able to live a successful freelance and nomadic life:

1. Try to plan as much as you can in the beginning

Start freelancing part-time if you can. When I worked at Harvard, I only worked 7-3 PM, so I was able to take on part-time freelancing jobs at night and on weekends while still working my full-time job. This enabled me to save money and also experience a taste of what it would be like freelancing before I quit my 9-5 and went full-time.

2. Travel to Central/South America or Asiafullsizeoutput_1e36

Starting out as a new freelancer is exciting, but also has its challenges. One of those challenges can be money. If you choose a cheaper location to live, such as Asia or South America, you can start ahead of the game by not having to worry too much about finances.

3. Speaking of finances, create a budget

As much of a pain as budgets are, when you are traveling with a new job and limited funds, it is important to know where your money is going. Do some research into a new city before you go to get an idea of food/lodging costs, transportation, activities, etc. This will save you time and money in the long run. I recommend reading How to Travel the World on $50 A Day by Matt Kepnes. There are lots of good budgeting and travel tips in there for each part of the world.

4. Setup a schedule for yourself

When I travel, but still have work to do, I try to get as much work done as I can before I leave for the new city. When I arrive in the city, I write out my schedule in my agenda so I know when I have calls, meetings, time to work, and time to explore.

What usually works for me is getting up early to work in the morning and then heading out in the afternoon to explore. I am also fortunate that most of my work is flexible as to when it is completed, so that is something to keep in mind when you are deciding what type of freelancing you want to pursue.

5. Don’t forget to take care of youfullsizeoutput_226b

Traveling can easily cause an imbalance in the way you eat, the amount of exercise you get, reflection, meditation, etc. Make sure you are walking or carve out time for exercise. It is exciting to try local foods in a new city, but make sure you are eating your fruits and vegetables too. This has been the hardest part of being a traveling freelancer for me.

6. Listen to your gut

Of all of the things I have learned traveling, this is the most important to me. Your gut always knows the way. I used my intuition for leaving an unhealthy relationship, leaving my 9-5 job, leaving situations that may not be safe in a new country, and many more circumstances. If it doesn’t feel right to you, it likely isn’t. Being a solo traveler teaches you to trust yourself and your instincts so don’t ignore them!

I hope some of these tips are helpful to those of you who are just starting your journey to being a nomadic freelancer. I am always open for questions, comments, advice, etc, so please do not hesitate to reach out to share your story or ask a question.

Safe and happy travels,

Christine

Instagram and Facebook are: @freelancenfreedom
Travel photos Instagram: @blondie_without_borders

5 Ways Freelancers Can Give Themselves a Little TLC

relaxation-1967892_1280I was sitting this morning with my tea, wondering what I was going to write about today. Today, I am tired, hormonal (perimenopause people!), and just not feeling like doing much of anything — yet I have a VERY full schedule today.

It was during my morning meditation that I realized perhaps today was a good day to talk about self-care.

Of course, we all need self-care. Every single person in the world, men and women, no matter who they are or what they do, needs to take the time to care for themselves. We all need to do things that help us unwind, relax, and rejuvenate. But I think women in freelancing need to take this particularly seriously. Why?

First, because women are notorious for caring for everyone around them and neglecting themselves. An Ipsos survey showed that while 80% of women feel self-care is important, only one-third of them take 30 minutes or less in a day to do so. In contrast, 76% of women spend as much as 10 hours a day and 19% spend more than 10 hours a day caring for others.

That’s 95% of women spending most of their waking hours caring for others!

Second, because freelancers can easily overwork themselves, despite the fact that they have so much freedom in terms of their schedule. Even though the Freelancing in America 2016 report shows freelancer worked an average of 36 hours a week (2 hours more than the average worked by employed workers), a Freelancermap survey from 2018 showed that over 40% of freelancers work between 40 and 50 hours per week and nearly 20% work between 50 and 60 hours per week.

That’s a LOT of hours, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it on more than one occasion.

And when you put these two things together…

You have a potent combination that can lead to burnout!

So, it’s time to step up your freelance self-care game, which is something I have really been trying to focus on lately. What follows are five things I am doing to care for myself. You may have your own secret self-care weapons or you may be inspired by these. Whichever is the case, your self-care strategies won’t work it you don’t actually do them. So, as you read through these, think about how you can truly implement them in your life:

1. Exercise

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It doesn’t matter what form your exercise takes, like Nike says, just do it. Exercise makes your body healthy and your brain happy. And it feels good. I have started running again, which is followed by a session of planks, pushups, and stretching — good for a body that sits in front of a computer all day.

Honestly, I just thought about how even a half an hour to an hour a day is really not a lot of time out of my schedule to do something good for myself. Yet, the benefits are amazing. Exercise:

  • Reduces the risk of disease
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Gives you more energy
  • Improves your mood
  • Improves brain function
  • Helps you sleep better

I try to run three days per week, followed by a workout/stretching session, and try to walk the other days. It’s not always easy, but it ALWAYS feels good and I know it makes me feel better on all counts.

So, decide what exercise is right for you and just do it!

2. Meditationyoga-1284657_1280

I have been meditating every morning now for about 3 weeks. I started at 5 minutes and now I’m up to 11 minutes. I do it in the morning, after my first cup of tea — and after my kids have gone to school. I usually try to visualize myself surrounding by the universal web of knowledge that surrounds all of us and open myself to it.

Sometimes, I visualize I am on a beach, sometimes in my living room, but always surrounded by love, light, and open to what the universe is offering me, the future it has for me. I also often repeat affirmations during meditation and I can’t begin to tell you how this has brought opportunities into my life.

Meditation offers some incredible benefits, not just mental, but also physical. They include:

  • Reduced cortisol levels and lower stress
  • Increased concentration and focus
  • Increased gray matter in the brain, resulting in better memory and learning and increase self-awareness and compassion — this helps prevent memory loss as we age
  • Reduced anxiety and depression

So, set aside some time each day to meditate. Start with 1 or 2 minutes if you need to and work your way to longer sessions. Just do it. You will notice the difference.

3. Be in the Moment

I have become quite good at being in the moment. If i’m working, I am there, focused on the work I am doing at the moment — not focused on the hundred other things I need to do. If I’m with my kids, I’m with them, no matter how much work is waiting for me in my office.

Being where I am and shutting out everything else helps me get the most out of the time I am spending on any area of my life. This past Thursday, I spent most of the day with my oldest daughter. Yesterday, I did a day trip to Toronto with my youngest daughter. I enjoyed myself and had a break from the office.

And I have SO MUCH WORK ahead of me in the coming days, I could have easily been fretting over it. But I didn’t. This is so important.

Learn to be in the moment and get the most out of it. When you are working, work hard. When you are playing, play hard. You will be amazed at how easy this can be and how beneficial it truly is.

4. Non-Screen Time

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Sometimes, I find myself just unable to concentrate well. I am not very focused and I’m not getting a lot done. I can’t use my time effectively. Whether I am tired, hormonal, or just overworked, I need to step away. Even when my work schedule is heavy, I need to step away. Perhaps take the rest of the day off and get back at it early the next morning, when I know I will be much more efficient.

After all, if work isn’t efficient, it makes more sense to use that time to refresh and rejuvenate!

There are also days when I need to not touch my computer at all. As long as nothing is pressing, some days off are spent completely disengaged from technology. Even when I think I’m going to work on a non-client project, sometimes I just can’t do it. I might use this time to go hiking and be in nature, read, binge some shows, or, more often than not, just sit and relax and let my mind wander.

Honestly, unless you have a harsh deadline looming, if you need to walk away for a few hours or an entire day or two, just do it! This isn’t about taking a vacation, although that is also important. This is stepping away during day-to-day life and letting yourself just be.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is critical to our overall health and our ability to concentrate and focus. I don’t do well on less than 8 hours of sleep and I don’t try to. Humans MUST have 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Without this much sleep, we are at a higher risk of overweight and obesity and diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes

Plus, our concentration and memory suffer, which isn’t going to help us when we are working. So, make sure you get enough sleep!

Obviously, there are plenty of other methods of self-care out there. This is just what works for me. Whether you do any of these or have others, please share with us in the comments section below! We can help inspire each other to engage in more self-care.

And stay tuned for a guest post coming on Wednesday about freelancing and traveling!

Cheers, Karen

To Niche or Not to Niche: 3 Things to Consider in Freelancing

Find your niche word abstractI’ve been reading a lot these days about the idea that freelancers need to choose a niche, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it. The going thought among the community seems to be that to be truly successful and really increase their income, freelancers need to choose a niche and stick to it, rather than being a Jill-of-all-trades. What do I think?

Yes — and no.

I spent the first many years of my freelance career writing anything and everything. I wrote on any subject matter that came my way, any industry that came my way. And let me tell you, I have honed my research skills to a T over the years.

These days, I am a little more specialized, simply because of chance, more than any conscious effort on my part. But this isn’t necessarily specialized in the way you might think. Here are three things that I have learned to consider when it comes to choosing a niche in freelancing…

1. Yes, Choosing a Niche Is a Good Thing

niche market and general market sign

Overall, I agree that choosing a specific niche is a good thing. When you choose a specific niche or industry in which to offer your services, there are a number of benefits, including:

  • You earn a reputation and build credibility.
  • You can charge more for your services.
  • Your experience continues to build.
  • You’re more likely to get referrals.
  • Your marketing can be more finely targeted.

Right from day one, it’s a good idea to choose a niche. Chances are, you have a pretty good idea of what niche you want to work in. This might have to do with previous education and work experience, a hobby, volunteer work, or a passion you have in a particular niche.

If you aren’t sure what niche you want to work in, then you can perhaps take on some random work in niches you might be interested in until you find a fit. Then you can focus on that.

But there is more to consider…

2. It’s About More than Subject Matterwordcloud-679951_1280

I am going to use writing as an example here because — well — I’m a writer and it’s what I know. Niche is only one part of the picture. You can specialize in a niche, such as health and fitness, personal finance, B2B (business-to-business) content, online marketing, the tech industry, or the pharmaceutical industry.

But the type of content you write also matters.

Just because you write in the personal finance niche, doesn’t mean you can write press releases as well as you can write blog posts. White papers, content articles, and sales copy are very different forms of writing, and the type of writing you specialize in is just as important as the niche itself.

So, perhaps you can specialize in white paper writing, regardless of industry. Or narrow it down to certain industries. Of course, your research skills will need to be incredible, but once you have written in an industry once, you can promote that in your marketing.

In the past, I wrote white papers in the health care industry, but I recently wrote one for a company in the blockchain space. Now, experience in this space is in high demand. I hadn’t written in that niche previously, yet I nailed the white paper because I know how to research and write a white paper, and how to work with the client as a subject matter expert. The client was thrilled with my work and will be a repeat client. And now, I can market myself as an experienced white paper writer in blockchain.

So, consider specializing in a specific form of content, a concept that I imagine can be transferred to at least some other freelance services, such as graphic design and photography.

3. More than One Niche Can Be a Good Thinggrid-2111788_640

Finally, yes it’s wise to find a niche and build a reputation in that niche. But that doesn’t mean you have to stick within that niche forever! Once you have established yourself, you can begin to look for a second niche, then a third.

Yes, this might mean marketing your services differently for each niche. You might need to alter your proposals or pitches depending on the niche a certain project or client is in. You might need to change your target market based on the niche. But you CAN work in more than one niche.

Now, I’m not suggesting you should be working in any niche that comes along. And I am not suggesting you spread yourself too thin. I am merely suggesting that if you write lead magnet reports, you can do that in both the health and fitness industry AND the online marketing industry. I am suggesting that you can write white papers, press releases, or blog posts in the personal finance industry AND the blockchain industry.

Maybe you’ll ultimately grow to work in three or four or five industries. Maybe you’ll stick with one or two. The point is, choosing a single niche is not carved in stone. You will need to feel it out and decide what’s right for you. Then run with it!

Do you have any thoughts on or experience with working in one or more niches? If so, please share with us in the comments section below!

Cheers, Karen

5 Tried & True Ways to Increase Freelance Cash Flow

american-1239040_640Getting paid enough and on time are two of the biggest headaches freelancers have. When we are between big projects, have a month where the pickings are slim, or take a long time to see payment for a project, we can easily run into cash flow problems. After all, we aren’t counting on a regular paycheck coming in every two weeks or even every month. But our rent, bills, and empty tummies don’t care about that.

Not only that, but there is always the chance a client will bugger off without paying us at all! Forbes reports that a whopping 58% of freelancers in Southeast Asian countries have experienced not being paid for their work. They also say it’s universal problem, not isolated to that area of the world. Bill.com reports that 54% of freelancers say it takes too long to get paid.

These are all nightmare scenarios we do NOT want to deal with. Add to this the fact that 35% of freelancers struggle with financial management and you have a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to help ensure we always have sufficient cash flow, no matter what happens with clients and payment.

Take a look…

1. Start a Savings Accountpiggy-bank-2889042_640

Yes, this seems intuitive, yet you’d be surprised how many people don’t have any savings. In the U.S., an astonishing 35% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings and another 34% have no savings at all. That’s 69% — two-thirds — of Americans with little or no savings!

And this isn’t a problem that is isolated to the U.S. In Canada, 24% of people have next to nothing saved. As for Britain, nearly a third of people have less than £1,500 and 15% have no savings at all.

So, just like you set aside a percentage of what you earn for your taxes (you do that, right?) you should also set aside a percentage in savings. Even 5%-10% a month can make a huge difference when payments are few and far between. The key is to choose a percentage and be diligent. Put it away EVERY month!

2. Manipulate Your Schedule

The very first priority when scheduling client work is to ensure you meet their deadlines. Period. However, there are other factors that can come into play, and scheduling your work so you can get some cash in more quickly is fair play. As long as your clients are happy, you can schedule the work any way you want. This means you can get something quick done, so you can bring it the $$. You can read more about it in my blog post on prioritizing freelance work.

3. Charge What You’re Worth

Remember, if you aren’t charging enough for your services, you will be slaving away too many hours a week just to make ends meet, never mind putting savings away. You need to be sure you are being paid fairly for what you do and that starts and ends with you. Check out my post on charging what you’re worth when it comes to setting your freelance fees.

4. Get a Deposit & Set Milestonesdistrict-3670200_640

Whenever you start with a brand new client, you MUST get a deposit. After all, you don’t know this client and they don’t know you. It’s a way to establish trust and a way to ensure you have cash coming in on a regular basis. About the only time getting a deposit might not apply is when you are working on a freelance platform that uses escrow to guarantee payment.

A deposit ensures you get some money upfront, so you have pay in the bank while you work on a project. And this doesn’t have to be done only with new clients. You can make it a regular practice, even when you work with clients again and again.

I generally charge 50% up front for projects under $500, with the remainder due on final delivery and approval. For larger projects, there is a deposit and milestone payments set up. So, if a project will cost $1,500, I will take a 10%-20% deposit and split the remainder into three milestones of 30%, 30%, and 20%-30%.

With a deposit and milestones, you will be getting a consistent flow of cash coming in, while you are working on a project. This saves you the horror of having to wait for a single large payment to come in after all the work is done.

5. Get a Monthly Retaineraccountant-4008603_640

Finally, if you offer a service that you will provide on a regular basis to a client, you can charge a monthly retainer. This is a flat fee you and your client have agreed on that will be paid out to you monthly and it is definitely something you should shoot for with as many clients as possible. This is something I am getting ready to do for blog posts, email campaigns, and the like.

So, as a writer, say a client wants you to write three blog posts of 1,000 words each every week. You can work out a flat fee for those 12 or so posts every month and the client will pay that rate on a certain date each month. You get steady and predictable pay and the client knows what is going out each month. It’s a win-win.

As freelancers, there is nothing we can do about the instability of our income. There will always be ups and downs, difficult clients, and quiet months. What we can control is how much we charge, when we collect our pay, and how much of it we set aside. So, take control and make sure your cash flow is adequate to meet your needs.

And if you have other ways you ensure you have a good cash flow every month, please share with us in the comments section!

Cheers, Karen