The Freelancer’s Tool Kit: 5 Must-Haves

The Freelancer’s Tool Kit: 5 Must-Haves

Being a freelancer can sometimes feel like you’re stranded on a deserted island. And it’s up to you and only you to figure out how to paddle outta there.

But the reality is, there are a slew of tools and teams and tips out there to help you navigate the shark-infested waters.

When I started my freelance consulting business, I didn’t know where to begin. How do I find new clients? How should I track my time and bill those clients? How in the world should I put together a new client proposal? Is anyone else in the same boat?

YES. There are lots of us freelance consultants and solopreneurs out here—more and more every day, actually.

 

therestlessraconteur.com

And there are a ton of helpful resources out here too. Here are my must-haves and tricks of the trade:

  1. Find Your Tribe

    When I first started, my good friend Heidi Fiedler of helloheidifiedler.com wisely suggested I check out the Being Boss podcast and Facebook group. This podcast for creative entrepreneurs has led me to SO many gems and discoveries, from software I’ve adapted, to tips on owning your expertise and scheduling, work/life balance, and everything in between. It was incredibly helpful to know I was not alone in this game, and the support from the online community is amazing.I also joined the Freelancers Union. It’s free, and there are links to benefits and discounts for freelancers, as well as job postings, networking events, and great articles.

  2. Keep Your Skills Up to Date

    Podcasts: Whatever your area of expertise is, I guarantee you there’s a great podcast out there about it where you can learn something new. For me and mine, I love Being Boss (see above), and the newly released Season 2 of Liz Gilbert’s Magic Lessons.
    Blogs: Likewise. Everyone’s got a blog these days, haven’t you heard? There’s one out there for you. I love Quick Sprout by Neil Patel for helpful and researched-back marketing tips, and I like checking in with the Bad Yogi for all things yoga.
    Publications: For my part, I subscribe to Chief Content Officer from the Content Marketing Institute. It’s super helpful for marketing/content folks like me. I also follow AdWeek  and Seth Godin on social media, and am always asking my friends and associates who THEY are following (see #5).

  3. Get Your Tools

    I am in love with Paydirt, which allows me to track my time and invoice clients seamlessly. My inner task master loves Asana for project management, Canva for social media graphics, Iconosquare for tracking Instagram metrics, and Pexels  and Unsplash for free and unusual stock images. There are new tools out there ALL the time. Please refer to #2; you will already know about these fancy new tools because YOU stay on top of your game. 🙂

  4. Go Get Some Work

    Flexjobs is a great place to find listings in all industries for part- or full-time work from home listings. All are vetted, so even though you have to pay to join, I think it’s worth it if you’re looking for a long-term position that allows you to work from home. I’m often asked by fellow writers and editors how to find job postings, and I tell them to look on social media! There are Facebook groups out there that exist solely to list legit, posted job ops. Just search for it! If you’re a writer/editor like me, you can also join the Editorial Freelance Association and get emails with job listings as they are posted. The annual fee is nominal, and they are a great resource for comparing standard rates, educational workshops, conferences, and more.

  5. Keep Meeting New People

    Network, network, network. Despite all these job listings I have access to, most of my clients come from word-of-mouth or people I actually meet at networking events. People are so much more likely to hire you after they’ve met you in person and can tell you know your stuff. Network After Work has events nationally, or check with some of your tribe (see #1) to see what groups they belong to—or start your own!

There you go: Tribe, Skills, Tools, Jobs and Networking.

All you need to succeed. Oh, and one more thing:

therestlessraconteur.com

Community is key.

Is there nobility in doing it alone? I don’t think so.

And here’s the straight up truth. You shouldn’t do it alone.

Sharing resources, knowledge and tips of the trade is really the name of the game. So if you can’t find your tribe, create your own! I was recently invited to join a group of lovely lady entrepreneurs and it’s amazing. Everyone brings different skills to the table, and we can all help each other out.

For my fellow freelancers out there, I’d love to hear what must-have tools and tips you would add to this toolkit? And for those of you just starting out or not yet freelancing, what are you grappling with? How can I help? Leave me a comment below and let me know.

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

How Painting Helped Me Get My Mojo Back

How Painting Helped Me Get My Mojo Back

Can you remember a time when anything was possible? When we were kids, and there were no limits to your creativity and no bounds to what you could create with your imagination?

I can. It’s a distant memory, but still one I can just grasp with my fingertips if I try really hard.

I can almost even remember a time when painting was just simply fun for me. My favorite part about it was always mixing up the colors; starting with two or three bright hues and ending up with six or more variations.

But as I grew older, and everyone else’s opinions started to matter more than my own, I lost my love for painting. The trouble always came when I had to actually put those beautiful colors on the canvas. I was just too afraid I would screw it up. So I taught for awhile, finding it much easier to instruct others at art than to put myself out there. And then, more than 20 years ago, I put my paintbrushes away. For good, I thought.

Then one day I saw a stunningly beautiful image in my Facebook feed, presented by Elizabeth Gilbert. The painter was Tracy Verdugo.

It was all loose interpretation; vibrant colors, thoughtful subjects, and what looked like flowing, beautiful ART.

My curiosity was piqued; I did some digging and found Tracy’s online Paint Mojo class. I connected immediately. Her style is not just about painting—it’s like therapy.

Tracy Verdugo
The incomparable Tracy Verdugo, at Crescendoh Studios in Santa Ana, CA

See, her whole process is about letting go, and not getting too attached to anything you put on the canvas. I know, right?!

I took her online class more than a year ago, when I was still working my corporate job and looking for a weekend creative outlet. It’s a 6-week class, packed with information, techniques, videos, and homework. It took about 3 weeks for me to get completely overwhelmed.

“I can’t do this,” I whined to my ever-patient husband. “It’s too haaaaaard…” I wailed, sounding like spoiled brat.

Letting go is never easy. For me, I loved the part where we dripped a rainbow of acrylic inks on the canvas and then turned the support so they ran and bloomed together. But the next step was to cover up some of that glorious color, and I just couldn’t.

I could. Not. Even.

I had grown too attached to that splattered, colorful abstract mess.

So I put the paints down, and I left that canvas to sit on my easel, in my studio, for months and months.

IMG_0294

Then Tracy came to town. And I knew I had to face my fears and go to her in-person class. Because I knew she wouldn’t let me stay attached.

Time to face my fears.

The first day, I got there 5 minutes late. I certainly didn’t want to be the first person in the room! Much to my dismay, I was one of the last to arrive. All the “good spots” were taken.

“We’ve got room over here!” I heard, and looked up to see two kind women beckoning me over to their table.

We started chatting, and they told me this was their first time painting. Ever.

I marveled at their courage, and decided I’d better quit my whining and get down to business.

The next three days were incredible. I let go. Tracy had us writing poetry, and splattering ink across our canvasses, and the only thing we had to “work” on was our reckless abandonment of any preconceptions. We were all part of the same tribe, these ladies and I. Some of them were artists by trade, and some of them weren’t. We were of all ages, from all different areas around the country. But we were all trying to let go.

I felt like a new me in that class. I splattered. I smeared. I tried really hard to not try so hard. With my headphones in, I got down on the floor and I gave myself over to it. I did not allow that familiar critical voice to come in and spoil the fun. I just painted.

I came home covered in paint and exhausted every night, and slept like a baby.

Turtle painting by SChagollan
My finished painting: my swimming turtle

When it was all over, I had created a big, fat, colorful mess of a painting, and I LOVE it.

Is it perfect? NO. Is it proportional and well-rendered? NOT REALLY.

But you know what? I really don’t care. And I’m not just being flippant about that. I really and truly don’t give a flying *F* if anyone else likes my work. Because it’s not for them. Or for you.

It’s for me.

And I’ve realized, in the weeks since that class, that that’s how I want all my creative work to be.

Just like that lovely artist said to me not so long ago, “this isn’t my bread, it’s my roses.” YES. Exactly.

So if you want my advice…go take an art class. Any old art class. At your community center, or your local “wine and paint” place, or a ceramic studio or an online course. It’s incredibly freeing, empowering and fulfilling to express your creativity.

And I promise it will help you get your mojo back.

Finding my love for painting again has reminded me of that kid-like feeling of possibility and imagination, not just in my artwork, but really in all aspects of my life and work.

That mojo is some powerful stuff.

P.S. Looking for more inspiration, or not quite ready to pick your brush up yet? Check out these 5 Books To Start You On A Creative Path. Or listen to Liz Gilbert’s new season of the Big Magic podcast for inspiration—it’s bound to give you courage to take the leap into creativity.

P.P.S. Yes, I finally went back to the canvas I abandoned in Tracy’s online class and…I did it. I painted OVER it. 🙂 It’s still a work in progress. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.

And please, leave me a comment below telling me how YOU get YOUR mojo back! We’re all in this together. We creative spirits have to support one another!

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Reinvention: The Mother of All Conundrums

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a jack of all trades, master of none.

Listening to “Dear Sugar,” one of my favorite podcasts the other day, I was reminded that we all reinvent ourselves countless times in our lives.

We are so many different people as we make our way through life; the ambitious and rebellious 20-something, then the still-ambitious-but-slightly-wiser 30-something; the aspiring dancer, the aimless student, the hopelessly romantic single girl…I have been all of those, at one time or another.

COB Quote

It really got me thinking…is it time for another reinvention?

Anytime I start to get restless about my career, or think about what I’ve accomplished (and not accomplished) at this point in my life, I have this compulsion to crumple up and throw away whatever I’m working on and start over. Reinvent.

Isn’t it easier sometimes just to start from scratch, rather than go back and try to fix it?

Back when I knew I wanted to leave my corporate job, I was paralyzed by the overwhelming unknown. What would I do next? What job would I be able to get? What kind of lifestyle changes would I have to make? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay where I was?

 

To talk myself down from that never-ending spiral, I started thinking about all the jobs I have been paid to do in my life. When you’ve been working since you were 6, you can wrack up a few job titles. These include:

  • actor
  • child wrangler (seriously, it’s a job title)
  • art teacher
  • fact-checker/researcher
  • editor
  • retail salesperson
  • tradeshow booth rep
  • customer service supervisor
  • retail store manager
  • communications specialist
  • marketing manager
  • writer

Ah, that last one. I remember the first time my dear friend Laurie, an accomplished and well-respected writer/actor/director introduced me to one of her colleagues for the first time. “This is my friend Sam,” she said. “She’s a writer.”

I coughed up a good portion of the cheap wine I was sipping.

No one had ever called me a WRITER before. Don’t you have to be indoctrinated into some kind of super secret society before you call yourself a WRITER? It sounded weird. And I felt this unsettling whir of embarrassment, pride and giddiness when she said it.

That was 10 years ago, and I have been making a living as an editor or a corporate communications expert for more than 14 years now. I’ve even written and published a few children’s books. And yet when people ask me what I do, I say, “I’m a marketing strategist.” Or “I’m an editor.”

LC QuoteI don’t know why it’s so hard for me to own that last one on the list. Is it so impossible to believe that writing is my calling?

Writing is what I do. It’s what I’m doing right now. I do it every day, in the lists I make, the work I do, and the ideas for future blog posts I catalog in my brain.

So what I’m realizing is this: I can be a whole lot of different job titles—I’m sure I’ll wrack up a few more in this lifetime. But I don’t need to reinvent myself at the core.

 

 

I am a writer.

There, I’ve said it.

No need to reinvent again. I am also lots of other things…a wife, a student of yoga, a painter, a smart ass…I am 32 flavors and then some. And I will always be a writer.

So there’s no need to crumple up this page and toss it. I’m just going to keep writing on it. And see what happens next.

P.S. I just finished my latest children’s book, to be published in 2017. Super secret society, I’ll be hitting you up for membership.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Don’t Let a Down Day Get You Down

Don’t Let a Down Day Get You Down

For the most part, I would say I am a positive person.

It wasn’t always that way. In my angsty 20s (and probably into my 30s too), I was certainly more of a glass-half-empty kinda gal. I wasn’t a pessimist as much as I was a skeptic.

But the last few years have taught me how much there is to appreciate in every day—in every moment, really.

Grace

I’ve become pretty good at chasing that joy with gratitude. Any time I catch myself getting cranky, frustrated, hangry, or road ragey, I try to STOP, take a breath, and bring my focus back to the good stuff.

But then there are those days…and I know we all have them…when there is just no convincing me that the sun is shining. Anywhere.

I am sad, down, blue, and downright unreasonable.

So what do you do on those days when you’re having a no good, very bad day? As a creative person, negative energy can not only kill your good mood, it can stop all your good juju from flowing.

This happened to me the other day, when I was tasked with writing some inspirational copy for a client. I could not shake the funk I was in, but I needed to get some work done!

On a blue day, here’s what I give myself permission to do:

1. Give myself a break.

Sometimes you need one. Sometimes it’s totally ok to spend an extra 10 minutes in bed before you hit the ground running. It’s ok to take a 15-minute break in the late afternoon and just sit in your car and turn on some tunes. It’s even ok to take a mental health day and not go and do all the things you’re supposed to do. Guess what? The world will keep spinning. And if you actually take a moment to let yourself rest a little extra bit, chances are you’ll be even stronger when you get back at it.

2. Shed a tear.

You know that feeling when you’re trying to hold back tears? That tightness in your throat, and your belly, and that clenchy jaw thing? Maybe it’s just me. But every once in awhile, I find that I just want a good cry. Maybe there’s not even a particularly good reason to. Doesn’t matter—I give myself 5 minutes to get it out. And then I move on.

3. Cheer myself up.

Now this isn’t like—let me eat an entire bag of cookie chips because that will cheer me up. (Whoever thought up cookie chips deserves an award or a flogging, I haven’t decided which yet.) This kind of cheering up is like—let me take a moment and think about how I’m feeling and what might make me feel better. Maybe it’s a special cup of tea, or watching dumb videos on YouTube for 5 minutes, or stretching out on my yoga mat for a few. Whatever it is, do it for yourself. It’s a real treat.

4. Get moving.

This is the part I most often resist when I’m down, even though I KNOW it will make me feel better. A long walk with my headphones in is bound to cure most any ill. A hot yoga class is kinda perfect to get my mind off a downer day. But if I don’t have time to do that on a particularly blue day, then I make a point to get outside for a few minutes and stretch. Or I shut my studio curtains and crank up the music and pretend I’m at da club. Whatever it takes to shake some of that negativity out.

Tomorrow5. Let it be.

And finally, I just try to stop resisting. I get still, I tune in, and I tell myself–tomorrow is another new day. Another chance to move forward, in the right direction.

Trust me, even though the sun may not be shining today, it will be there tomorrow. And the next day too.

The Truth About Working From Home

The Truth About Working From Home

Job_C

 

1.The majority of my pants no longer have buttons. Or zippers. I live in “active” wear. And it’s kind of awesome.

2. Along the same lines, I hardly ever wear a lick of makeup anymore. Also kind of awesome.

3. If I don’t take a shower as soon as I roll out of bed, chances are, it’s not happening until 9 p.m. I used to always shower at night so I could have more time in the morning when I worked an office job; now I’m excited to get right to work, and I sometimes forget to shower until I start to put on my pajamas at bedtime. Not so awesome.

4. The value of tea cannot be underestimated. Tea in the morning. Tea in the afternoon. Tea anytime. Read more

Serendipity

Serendipity
 Serendipity

Serendipity is such a great word. Doesn’t it just sound like a feather on the wind? I always picture the dog/dragon Falcor from The Neverending Story when someone says that word.

I think I like it so much because of what it means though.

The official definition: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

Serendipity. Destiny. Fate. Call it what you will, I’m a total believer.

Read more

Why You Should Talk to Strangers

Why You Should Talk to Strangers

I’m not really the kind of girl who chats with strangers.

In fact, I tend to avoid them. At the gym or on an airplane, I’m the chick who gives you a smile as she’s putting on her headphones and cranking up the music.

Because I’m sure you’re really nice, but I’m not looking to make any new friends. And I don’t really want to end up in a political debate with you, or talk about the Kardashians, or hear about why your chick lit book is totally enthralling and I have to read it.

I’ve always been kind of a snob when it comes to strangers. But I think I’m a changed woman.

StrangersOn a recent trip up north, I met two strangers who I think the Universe may have placed in my path for a purpose.

Which made me think back to last December, when I was on a very emotional and nerve-wracking trip to the same destination. And if it weren’t for the kindness of a few strangers, I’m not sure what I would have done.

Read more

Mixing A Little Mindfulness Into Your Morning

Mixing A Little Mindfulness Into Your Morning

Back when I was working my corporate job, mornings were a hectic, spastic kind of a mess. To get up and out and take care of everything that needed to be handled before rushing out the door to sit in traffic was…madness.

I always wanted to get more organized, and maybe even bring a little calm to my mornings. But I could never figure out how to do it without making it even more time-consuming and complicated.

As I retooled my life towards a more creative path, reclaiming my mornings was one of the first priorities on my list.

Setting an intention for your day sets the tone for everything to follow; it’s no wonder you’re feeling stressed, panicked and exhausted if that’s how you’re starting off every morning.

Flip that dynamic around—I dare you to just try it for a week and see if it makes a difference in your sanity.

Here are a few simple things I do every morning to bring a little more awareness, calm, and mindfulness to my day. And by the way you guys, this actually doesn’t take any more time than my hectic morning routine did. Read more

Give a Little Bit

I have been fortunate to be surrounded by generous people in my life. My parents are both very generous people, as are my friends, my husband, and his family.

MandyBut I don’t think I really understood generosity until I got to know my mother-in-law, Mandy. She was always extremely generous to me, in all ways. She welcomed me into her family with incredible warmth and acceptance, she was always an amazing listener and advice giver, and she helped my husband and I in so many ways, emotionally and financially. She was a rock for us.

When she passed away last year, we were heartbroken and in shock. At the celebration of her life, people my husband and I had never met came up to us at the gathering and smiled and hugged us as if they had known us for years. “You’re Matt and Sam,” they would say with pride. “She told us all about you.”

And then they would tell us what a thoughtful and generous person Mandy was. “Did you know she helped me out when I really needed it?” they would ask, and then go on to tell us another tale of how Mandy had helped them out of a jam, given them a gift they could never have afforded themselves, or made a donation to a cause they cared about. Read more