Category

Freelance

Tips For Working On-The-Go

By | Freelance, Travel

I’ll be honest, I get stressed out relatively easily. Unlike most, it’s usually not stemming from my chauvinistic boss or working too many hours; it’s more than likely caused by my on-the-go lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong, being a nomad has been wonderful. I’ve been able to escape the chains of San Diego-priced rent and see corners of the world I never would have had the urge to otherwise. As a freelance designer (doing what I love to do), I’ve achieved a sense of freedom seldom found in one’s career and I’m forever grateful for that.

Being a nomad, however, has taught me many things in the realm of remote work. If you’re a jet setter like me, I’ve come up with some tips along my journey that I hope you also find useful:

1. Power to Paperless

Ditch your printer. Seriously.

We live in the 21st century; a wonderful time that allows us to rely heavily on technology. Whether that’s a good or bad thing I won’t get into but for the purpose of working while traveling, we can certainly use it to our advantage. You will rarely catch me on a flight without my laptop, external hard drive, and cell phone that literally hold the contents of my entire business. If you’re still one that prints out everything, traveling can become a lot more of a hassle… Avoid the “Oh ****, I forgot ____!!” and keep it simple for yourself; keep your files (organized) on your hard drive along with an online backup in the cloud for safekeeping.

2. Don’t be a Pack Horse

If you’re a jet setter, you’ve probably already learned to ditch the 10 facial ointments, perfumes, and unnecessary makeup while you’re constantly on the move. Depending on your trip, a carry-on could save you much hassle while traveling as there’s no risk of losing your baggage, waiting forever at the baggage carousel, or overweight fees. Remember to always pack liquids in their own easily accessible, sealed 1-quart sized bag and to keep each bottle under the standard 3.4oz (100ml).

3. Tell Your Clients

Even if you’re only on a 1-hour flight headed straight for the nearest Starbucks to work in a new city for the day, it’s smart to be up-front with your clients.

Coming from the corporate world, I felt guilty at first for taking time off for re-locating during business hours as that would have not flown in my previous 9-to-5. Now that I’m an experienced freelancer, I’ve learned to suppress the feeling of guilt so long as I’ve been open with my clients of my limited availability for the day. If there’s an emergency, I’ll even take a phone call on a layover or work off the airport’s free WiFi – my clients will be much more understanding of my situation if I’ve told them ahead of time.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Most of us have grown accustomed to at least one night a week spent at home vegging on the couch with our favorite Netflix show. Taking this sort of relaxation out of your schedule while traveling can have its toll on you – and your mood. When you’re scheduling your travels, make sure to give yourself a night to just do nothing once in a while. I assure you it will make the adventurous parts of the trip even better!

5. Have a Backup Plan & GO WITH THE FLOW

As a frequent traveler, you’re well aware that plans can change at a moment’s notice. Your hotel lost your reservation? This city doesn’t have UBER?!? The WiFi is down?!?!?

Because you have clients relying on you, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Do ample amount of research before your trip(s) to make sure you know of the closest public WiFi spots, taxi/shuttle #s, and backup hotel stays. Since I travel to rural areas often, I even upgraded my Verizon plan to include a mobile hotspot just in case (which I’m able to write-off). You’ll also want to prepare yourself mentally for drawbacks – and how you could potentially fix them. It takes the right kind of person to be able to travel and work; you can’t get hung up on the little things like crappy hotel shampoo or hard-to-find hotel parking.

6. Take The Right Kind of Clients

It’s tough to realize sometimes but, as a freelancer, you have the power to choose your clients. Although the money is important, so is your sanity. Make sure to screen the clients you do business with to make sure they align with your business and personality. Take it from me, a nightmare client is NOT worth the $. To make sure they mesh well with your traveling lifestyle, make sure to casually mention something about it during your initial consultation/phone call. You can normally tell right away by gauging their reaction whether they’ll be chill or not chill.

How to Take Time Off As a Freelancer

By | Freelance

One of the main reasons I decided to quit my 9-to-5 job and become a freelancer was so that I could take more time to myself, mainly to travel. Asking for time off from my boss was literally my least favorite thing to do – there was no avoiding it and I felt guilt every time. It always felt like I was taking more time than everyone else and I could just feel their eyes on me every time I left the office prior to a vacation.

Fast-forward a year and I’m taking pretty much all of the time off that I want. What I didn’t realize though was that vacation/free time has a whole new meaning when you’re self-employed.

Time off at my 9-to-5:

2 weeks + 7 sick days

Pre-approved, scheduled dates where I am FREE from all things job-related.

Time off as a freelancer:

UNLIMITED!

Unknown, often un-scheduled time where I may or may not need to take a phone call/email.

 

Unlike working for the big man, I now can take time off sans approval! With that freedom, however, also comes a bit of responsibility.

Throughout my time freelancing I’ve kept an important business goal: keep your clients happy. I can attribute a lot of my success to my willingness to provide what my clients need. Being self-employed, a happy client often eventually converts to referral business (the best kind of business), which is what has kept me quite busy.

Since I place such an emphasis on pleasing my clients, I’ll admit it’s difficult to take time away from my work. They need me to meet deadlines, take phone calls, answer emails, and project manage; and it all feels like they need it RIGHT NOW! How can I possibly take time away when there is so much to be done to achieve my goal?

It’s SO easy to get sucked into your business and forget why you started it in the first place. If this is a fear of yours, or you find yourself in the same situation, here are a few pointers:

1. Don’t take time off just when you’re slow

Just like life itself, your business will have up’s and down’s, busy times and slow times. My natural instinct going into my freelancing career was to simply wait for a slow time and then give myself time off. Fortunate for me, there wasn’t a slow time in sight for a good few months into my freelancing career. About a month in, it became painstakingly apparent I had forgotten why I had started all of this in the first place; for the freedom to take time off. Slowly, I started to learn to schedule my projects accurately and set boundaries with my clients that allowed for more freedoms. I started to take time off during weekdays to do random things – go to the store at 10:30am and avoid the checkout lines, go for a run at the gym while everyone else is at work, or take a 2 hour lunch break because I felt like it. It was then that I also noticed my quality of work increasing! The happier I was with my work/life balance, the easier it became to produce phenomenal work. So my note of advice is this: take time off consistently each and every week regardless of your workload and schedule your timelines with clients accordingly.

2. Time off doesn’t necessarily mean vacationing

One of the things I love most about freelancing is being able to get out of the office at random times of the day – and without any need for an excuse. For me, I had to use ALL of my vacation time at my 9-to-5 for vacation and left no free days to just take for myself. I regret this now that I’ve experienced life with free time to spend – it’s hard to realize that you need it if you never give yourself the chance.

3. Set boundaries with your clients

As a general rule of thumb, I always try to have my clients schedule calls with me rather than calling me out of the blue. I certainly reserve the right to ignore an un-scheduled call – and you should learn to do the same. Although that may sound a bit harsh, the phone will still be there after your lunch break (and there’s also a thing called voicemail). It’s also fair for you to ask your clients to be up-front about any harsh deadlines. If the deadline seems too soon, tell them! Being honest from the start is much better than missing the deadline in the end.

4. Stick to your calendar

If you’re in the middle of busy season and you’re dying for a vacation, set the dates for one in your calendar a few weeks out. Next, notify all of your current clients. What’s nice is that there’s not much they can say that will stop you from going – you are your own boss now! When a client asks for a deadline during your vacation dates you can then say “no” without hesitation.

5. Take advantage of the weekdays

Another awesome part of freelancing is the ability to beat the weekend crowds. When I find I have a Monday deadline, for example, sometimes I’ll switch my Friday for a Saturday so that I can enjoy a park or hike in the peaceful serenity of a weekday. Nothing’s better than enjoying an area to yourself!

If there’s one thing to take from this all, it’s to make sure you remember why you chose freelancing to begin with – and never forget it!

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Freelance Career

By | Freelance

Taking the leap into a full-time freelance career can be extremely scary. Trust me, I’ve been there. Not only would your income stream no longer be guaranteed, but also your lifestyle must alter drastically. After making the change myself, I’ve come up with a few questions I feel are beneficial to anyone considering becoming a full-time freelancer in their trade:

1. Why are you considering freelancing? List the pros.

This is a good exercise before you make such a big change in your life. The reasons that freelancing is an attractive option vary from person to person. For example, my main motivators were freedom to travel more and to feel fulfillment in the work I was producing. For you, it could be so that you can spend more time at home with your kids (or dog/cat).

2. Why aren’t you getting that (insert answer from #1) from your current job situation?

I believe this to be a good qualifier for whether freelancing would really make you happier than you are currently because it will quickly identify whether your goals are achievable in your current situation or not.

For example, before I made the decision to quit my job and become self-employed, I moved departments and tried to find work within the company that I would feel fulfillment in; as you might have guessed, I was unsuccessful which gave me all the more reason to start my business. In addition to that, there was no real way for me to get approval for the extended travel trips I truly wanted to go on.

3. Are you self-motivated?

If the answer to this is, ‘I’m not sure,’ I wouldn’t shoot down the possibility of succeeding at freelancing right away. You may enjoy coming home from work and vegging on the couch with 0 productivity until 9am tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean you’re not self-motivated. If you’re someone that will meet deadlines consistently, and doesn’t need someone to remind them of projects, I’d say that’s enough to consider yourself as a potential freelancer.

That being said, a sense of motivation is extremely important when you’re your own boss. YOU are the one in charge, YOU are the one setting your own deadlines (that will keep your clients happy), and YOU are the sole person responsible for creating a quality product or service (that also pays the bills). Sound like a lot of work? It is… at times. And it certainly takes a minute to get used to, however, the rewards are well worth it.

4. Where will you work?

It doesn’t matter if right now the answer is ‘Starbucks’ – make sure you’re going to have a place to operate your new business. Although this seems a bit unimportant, I find it is a good place to start before diving into the more stressful topics of money and client acquisition. If you don’t have a place to work at home, check out shared workspaces near you and if their pricing seems reasonable (or ridiculous).

Try to picture your day-to-day as a freelancer – do you need to answer phone calls? Do you need a location to meet with clients physically? Do you need super fast Internet? Make sure to think these things through when you’re considering your answer.

Personally, I’ve only rented a shared workspace for a few months out of the entire time I’ve been freelancing. It varies for everyone, but for me I am perfectly productive sitting in my own apartment/hotel/home (as you may or may not know, I’m also a traveling nomad so my workplace tends to change a lot). No one knows you better than you; so what do you think? Could you be productive straight out of bed without physically going into an office? Or do you feel it’d be necessary to have an office to produce quality work?

5. Can you afford it/are you financially responsible?

While you certainly don’t need to drain your entire savings account, you should have some cash available for up-front business expenses before you start. These will range depending on what type of business you’re in but I suggest making a list of recurring and one-time expenses you foresee if you DO decide to become a freelancer full-time.

Also don’t forget you won’t have any of your job’s benefits anymore (unless you have a spouse with benefits that you can latch onto). This can be a big one as health insurance premiums have skyrocketed in the recent years. If you will be needing to purchase a plan, do a quick google search for plans/pricing and add that to your list of expenses.

I added ‘financially responsible’ to this question because you must have incredible restraint when it comes to saving money for taxes. As a freelancer, you’ll most likely pay into estimated quarterly taxes, so you won’t have to drool over the money for more than a few months, but it still can be tough to not spend.

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The Commitment-less Millennial

By | Freelance

Space travel, solar-powered homes, self-driving cars, light speed wifi, and instant communications from every corner of the world – it’s easy to say the 21st century has brought us incredible change and innovation. Along with such technology, we are beginning to view life in a different light; one that is constantly connected, online, and unhitched from a single location. Our social media feeds are cluttered with ‘Travel around the world!’ ads and friends whom have taken just that action – thrown away commitment and began to embrace true sense of adventure and freedom. And, as you probably already know, I have chosen to do the same.

With the increasing amount of technology, millennials have an ever-growing urge to rid themselves of commitment. From making plans for this afternoon to committing to a college major or relationship; these decisions become more and more difficult as the realm of technology distracts us with the wonders we could be missing out on.

So what led me to my rash decision in leaving my sought-after corporate career, beautiful San Diego home, and close-by friends? Amongst many other things, for me it was the concept of being free; the freedom to travel, to take vacation time guilt-free, to manage my own workload, and quite frankly… do whatever I want (and sometimes suffer the consequences). I can confidently say it was one of the best decisions of my life. I’ll admit, it’s a lifestyle only suited for certain types of people and, fortunately, I believe I am one of them.

 

Nothing about the transition has been easy yet the perks of being self-employed, remote-working, and relatively commitment-less are priceless. I no longer feel the need to rush appointments or errands during my lunch break, I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to take a vacation (save for my bank account), and I have the freedom to work from wherever I want so long as there’s wifi. I have regained my creativity I felt I was losing sitting behind a desk, given myself time to do the things I truly enjoy, and traveled internationally.

As I begin this journey, I want to give confidence to those who were in the same shoes as I was prior to taking on full-time freelancing. With no doubt, the decision to go ‘digital nomad’ was an emotional, difficult one. You can’t help but ask yourself ‘Is this the wrong decision? Will I try just to result in failure?’. If there’s anything to help rest these qualms, I believe it is reminding yourself of why you are considering the freelance life at all – and why your current situation isn’t fulfilling that.

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