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.

 

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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:

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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!

 

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The Truth About Working From Home

The Truth About Working From Home

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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