Good morning Monday! I’m happy to report that our little family is completely over the flu, we’re all moved into the new house (though not fully unpacked) and Nick has safely landed in Mexico where he’ll be spending the week for work. Oh right, forgot to mention that huh? Us moving, Nick going to Mexico for a week and then poof! time to head up to Seattle for Christmas. Life is good.
The papas are staying with me while Nick is gone, helping with the boys and giving me time to get things organized and set up around the house. I can’t wait to post pictures of the rooms all set up – right now, it’d be a pretty sad collection of photos. I’m working on it.
At any rate, I’m happy to be back to full health and woke up bright and early this morning (2:15) ready to tackle the work week! Let’s do this!
What Working Freelance Means (to me)
I get a lot of questions, both in person and via emails, about what it means for me to be “full-time freelance.” People know it’s a big deal to me, they seem to know that I’m happy about it – but I also get treated a lot like maybe I was laid off and this is my way of spinning the story in some happy manner. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that’s not the case because I’ve been working towards making the leap to freelance for about a year now. First, I started picking up work on the side of my full time job. Then I started cutting back to part-time office work with more and more freelance time until I finally cut the office hours out completely. But what does that really mean? I asked you guys to submit any and all questions and today, I’m starting to answer them. Because I received so many questions and I wanted to be sure to fully answer them, I’m splitting this up into three separate posts.
Let’s get to it!
What Exactly Do You Do?
There are certainly plenty of people that think I sit around at the coffee shop all day and post things on Facebook. Let’s clear that up real quick. I do four primary things: writing, marketing, business planning & management, and business development.
Writing. I write for a variety of different entities. I write about health and fitness for a couple of online resource collections. I write about business and management for an online resource as well. I also write copy for web and print marketing for a variety of independent businesses. These are all very different genres and I typically divide my time between each thought process by days of the week. For instance, I write health and fitness related items on Monday afternoons, “fun” things I do on Tuesday mornings, all business related writing takes place on Wednesdays and Thursdays. I spend Friday reviewing and editing my larger projects and often times submitting final versions that day, or Monday.
Marketing Programs. I work with a handful of small businesses to help establish a story line and then determine the best way to “tell that story” to the public. This includes generating an overall marketing concept and a timeline for a holistic campaign – online, print, consumer-driven, and business-to-business.
Business Planning & Management Programming. Again, I have worked and am working with a handful of small businesses to help guide business management practices for better efficiency, increased customer satisfaction and improved bottom line. This work is longer in time frame because I spend a lot of time working with business owners and day-to-managers to get a good grasp of their current operating procedures. I then compile a report highlighting opportunities for improvement and immediate action items. That process takes about four weeks. At that point, we collectively decide which items will be implemented and I’ll work side-by-side with managers in re-writing policy books and procedure manuals. This portion typically takes about 2-3 months and includes some follow up as we ensure that positive progress is being made. Most of these clients become long-term in that they appreciate having a third party to create and monitor goals, and provide some outside accountability to work towards those goals.
Business Development. There’s a lot of discussion about what “business development” actually means. For me, it means bringing people together to create projects and work that might not otherwise exist without such a collaboration. Creating work. But part of this is also “having an ear to the ground” and keeping my clients informed of, and involved in the dialogue, regarding upcoming work. It’s not just marketing, not just business strategy, not just producing – it’s a collection of all plus a bit more and yet, hardly a tangible piece of work.
When Do You Work?
There’s this notion that freelance = sit around in your pajamas all day. It’s true that I can work whenever I want. But it is also true that I can work whenever I want roughly translates to I am working always.
Imagine your job. Whatever it is that you do. If you sit at a desk, imagine your desk and all of its contents. Imagine your files and folders. The scribbles and half thoughts on your notepad. Imagine your coworkers and the obnoxious guy with the pocket protector.
Now, take a minute to consider this: as a freelancer all of that exists in your head. There is no desk. No office to turn the lights out on and walk away. You are the work. You are the only coworker. And as soon as you’re approaching a deadline, everyone at the coffee shop is that guy with the pocket protector – asking you questions and interrupting you because somehow the universe just knows you’re in a hurry.
Because I work in a small town, for small local businesses, my work is quite literally everywhere I go. I see my “bosses” all over town – when I’m buying groceries, when I go to they gym, when I go on a hike, there’s no escaping this completely. And while sometimes this is really great, it’s also really hard to completely “turn off work” and settle in for a weekend or an evening out on the town. Work is everywhere, every time of the day. There are no office hours, remember? And don’t forget I woke up and started working at 2:15. So yes, working in my pajamas – that’s real.
How Do You Get Paid?
There are lots of ways for freelancers to get paid so keep in mind that my answer is specifically how I get paid not how all freelancers get paid.
For my online work, I submit for projects that are paid either per word or a flat rate for the writing assignment. Once my piece is submitted, I will typically get paid within 2-4 weeks.
For all other work (everything offline) I work on contract for periods of time. When I first started out, I would take one-off jobs for flat rates. Now I only take work that I can contract out for a minimum of three months. For instance, I write a proposal for ongoing work, assign myself deadlines, and provide payment markers – typically once per month until the completion of the project. This is incredibly helpful in planning out my work load and knowing whether I actually have the time to take on new work but it is also extremely important for budgeting purposes. Having contracted work allows me to plan my spending, saving and know when to ramp up the marketing for my own services.
In the next post, I’ll be answering your questions about finding working, staying organized and getting everything done on varying deadlines.