woman lay on a sofa with a laptop

5 drawbacks of working from home

Woman lay on a sofa with a laptop

Whilst I enjoy working from home immensely, sometimes it’s not always as peachy as I imagined it would be.

Sure I get to wear my fluffy slippers and pyjamas all day if I want, but it’s not all plain sailing.

There are several drawbacks to home working that anyone thinking about freelancing from home should be aware of.

1. Distractions are everywhere

Because you’re at home, you’re surrounded by your beloved possessions.

As such it’s much easier to allow yourself to be distracted than if you were in a formal work environment.

Household chores you know you should get done or the odd job around the house all easy distractions from work, especially if you’re already finding it a struggle to stay productive.

2. You don’t always feel like working

young businessman relaxing

You’re at home, your place of comfort and rest, and because of this it’s sometimes hard to get into a working mindset.

When you don’t have to get up and report to an office or workplace by a particular time, it’s very easy to turn your alarm off, roll over and sleep for another hour or so.

But it’s not very professional for a client to be unable get hold of you because you’re sleeping in. Freelancing takes a lot of self discipline.

3. Other people can get in the way

It can be hard for family, flatmates or whoever you happen to live with to understand that although you’re at home, you’re working.

Neighbours doing DIY or having noisy building work done can easily stop your ability to focus on your work.

Similarly, having to get up to answer the phone or door to a cold-calling salesperson gets very frustrating, very quickly.

4. Space can be limited

cluttered desk

Trying to combine a living space with a working space leads to a lot of clutter.

Every nook and cranny in my ‘studio’ (which happens to double as a bedroom) is filled with paper stock, books, prints, scraps, book-binding materials, tools, paint, brushes, photography equipment, screen-printing screens… the list goes on.

Another drawback is I often require a space that allows me to work on a large scale, or get messy with materials. This just isn’t possible in a fully furnished room.

5. It can get lonely

Working from home can be quite a solitary experience, especially if you live alone.

It’s easy for cabin fever to set in when you have a big project on your hands and you haven’t left your office or studio in quite sometime.

It can also be stressful when you’re wracking your brain for a solution and don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off, or you’re unsure of how to do something and only have yourself to rely on.

I make a point of getting out of the house as much as I can to see friends and interact with other people without having to use a computer screen to do so.

I still love working from home

Despite these drawbacks, I still really enjoy being able to make a living from the comfort of my own home.

The freedom and relaxed nature of the environment is great for my productivity, plus I save on the cost of having to commute to a work place and/or pay for a studio (though I am debating renting a studio space in the near future).

If you plan to work from home, it’s important to be focussed.

It’s also worth discussing your situation with anyone you might be living with to ensure they understand that whilst you’re home, you’re working.

5 ways to appear more professional to clients

group of business men

If you’re trying to drum up business as a freelancer, you need to appear professional both online and offline.

There’s a lot of competition from other freelancers, so making a good first impression before a potential client has even contacted you about work is imperative.

Any shred of doubt about your professionalism or reliability and potential clients will run a mile.

So what can you do to appear more professional and make a good first impression on a potential client?

1. Get your own domain name

Your own domain name is a very cheap but very necessary purchase. If you shop around, you can get a .co.uk domain for a few pounds for a whole year, or a .com for not much more.

Such a small investment can really help build trust. It implies a level of pride in your name, and shows that you’re willing to invest in yourself.

Plus yourname.com is much easier to remember than than yourname.freewebsite.com, as well as sounding much more professional.

Many free blog or portfolio sites allow you to use your own domain name over their subdomain address, so take advantage.

There’s no need to pay a lot of money for a portfolio site, but there’s really no excuse not to have your own domain name.

2. Buy some good quality business cards

two sided black graphic designer business card

Some people claim not to need them, but I’ve personally found business cards are still very much a necessity, especially if you’re a graphic designer.

They show that you’re prepared, and are a great way to demonstrate your design skills without having to carry around a portfolio.

Avoid cheap online printers advertising amazing deals on cards that may as well be printed on toilet paper. Think about what a cheap, flimsy card could say about you and your business.

Instead find a local printer and talk to them. They’ll be able to advise you on stock and finishes, plus the print quality will be much better than some of the cheaper online sellers.

If you’re not a designer yourself, find a freelancer and get some designed professionally.

3. Respond to emails in good time

If you get an enquiry about work, don’t leave it too late to respond. Chances are you’re not the only designer who’s been contacted, and if you’re too slow to respond you’ll lose the client.

On the other hand, don’t reply too quickly. You may come across as desperate for work, which may lead people to question why you aren’t busy.

Think about how people avoid empty restaurants. Would you eat in a restaurant that everyone else seems to be avoiding?

As a general rule, I always try to respond to emails the same day, and aim to reply to quotes I receive whilst I’m working within 1 to 2 hours.

4. Brush up on your email communication skills

small child using a laptop

It won’t fill a potential client with confidence if your emails are full of spelling mistakes and lack punctuation.

Ensure you write well, using grammar and punctuation correctly, format your emails so that you’re not sending a ‘wall of text’.

Address your the sender by name if they’ve provided one. By using their name you’re speaking directly to them, and you come across much friendlier than if you kept it too formal.

Don’t forget to thank them for getting in touch too.

Promoting yourself as a freelancer isn’t just about how experienced you are. Clients also have to be able to get along with you. Being friendly can’t hurt your chances of getting the job.

 5. Dress to impress

Just because you’re freelance, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort when meeting clients face to face.

How smart you dress will likely depend on the industry you’re working in, the client you’re meeting and possibly even the location you’re meeting them at.

As a designer I’m able to get away with dressing ‘smart-casual’, something like a polo shirt and a pair of (clean and tidy) jeans normally does the trick.

It’s always better to be slightly too smart than turn up looking scruffy. You can always tone it down at the next meeting, but you won’t get a chance to make that first impression again.

It’s not just about appearances

Appearing to be professional isn’t enough. You have to actually act and work professionally, otherwise you’ll struggle to keep clients happy.

Freelancers reply a lot on their reputation to gain new clients. Word of mouth is quickly becoming my main source of work.

Do a good job for clients and they’ll gladly recommend you to their contacts.

Remember, it’s your name on the line!

How to increase productivity as a freelancer

Let me just say, working from home is brilliant! Being your own boss is incredibly liberating and it’s great to not have to commute during rush-hour traffic (though there are a few drawbacks).

But when you’re your own boss, it’s easy to fall into ‘slacker mode’ where you find it a struggle to get motivated and get anything done. And when that happens, it’s a quick decline for your reputation, and your business.

So what can you do to ensure you stay productive and get work done?

1. Get up and get dressed

woman in pyjamas relaxing reading a book

It’s hard to focus on your workload if you sleep late and sit around in your pyjamas and slippers.

I actually find walking to the local shop in the mornings helps me to focus on my day. It gives me a reason to get dressed and look presentable, the change of scenery stops me getting cabin fever and the exercise is good for me.

Plus, when I get home it’s like I’m arriving at work and my day begins (though I do wear my slippers – it’s one of the perks of working from home).

2. Have a designated working space

If you’re working in the same space that you relax inyou’ll find yourself relaxing when you should be working (and vice versa!).

It’s important to have a designated area where you can focus solely on work, be it the kitchen table, a spare bedroom, or your garden shed. You might even decide to build a home office.

Some people find it’s easier to work away from home. such as at a local coffee shop (often referred to as a coffice) or a shared working space, to avoid the ‘being at home’ mindset completely.

Again, you can treat arriving at your designated location as arriving at work.

3. Avoid distractions

woman in red using laptop

Social media notifications are some of the most distracting things I’ve ever encountered. The same goes for emails and text messages.

To avoid the temptation of checking your Tweets, close the internet browser tabs you don’t need to have open. It’s also worth closing your email client and opening it again once you’ve finished your work.

I tend to ignore text messages whilst I’m working but will answer calls as they’re likely to be clients anyway.

4. Do one thing at a time

It’s easy to get swamped by work when you run your own business, as there always seems to be lots of little jobs that need doing that take up all your time.

Having a ‘to-do’ list with each task for the day can help you prioritise jobs. Anything that takes less than 10 minutes to do, you should do straight away.

You’ll suddenly find with those inconvenient little jobs out of the way your workload has dropped and you’re free to focus on your more involved projects.

5. Have a deadline

hour glass

Nothing gets you working like the sweaty fear of missing a deadline. Deadlines are great for productivity because they give you a target to focus on and work towards.

If your client doesn’t give you a deadline, set your own and reward yourself when you beat it.

Sometimes I aim to have all my current work completed by Thursday so that I can reward myself with a three-day weekend.

The secret to getting more done

There’s really no secret to getting all your work done, aside from just getting on with it.

Even though you’re your own boss, try to treat your working day as you would if you were working for someone else; have set working hours, be presentable, and don’t slack off.

Be sure to give yourself time in the evenings and at weekends to unwind and relax, so that you have something to look forward to whilst you’re working

How do you stay productive?

bike speeding down hill

How to maintain blogging momentum

Some people claim sticking to a blog posting schedule is an important step in starting and running a successful blog. Some people don’t.

Either way, if you want to build a successful blog you need to be posting new content a,t least some-what regularly, to keep search engines and (most importantly) your readers happy.

Therefore it’s important that you can maintain your writing momentum to ensure you always have something new to post.

Here’s 5 ways you can ensure you do.

Have a specific posting day

Regular readers of your blog will appreciate knowing exactly when they can expect new content from you. It also gives you a deadline to hit and an incentive to write.

The busiest day for traffic to my blog (and I suspect the majority of others) is Monday. For this reason I aim to have a new article published by Sunday night, so that the content is there for visitors first thing on a Monday morning.

Monitor your blog’s traffic with something like Google Analytics and see which days are best for you to publish content.

Write less

When I started blogging, I’d write quite long articles, often between 600 and 800 words, sometimes more. Because these were relatively in-depth, I found I was writing about two or three different things, often because I was clarifying something else I’d written.

Now I aim to write 300 to 400 word posts that get to the point and only focus on one topic at a time. If I feel I need to clarify something, I’ll write another post that covers that topic in slightly more detail and link to it.

Start a blogmap

Blogmapping is great for generating new ideas for posts, and they work well with my previous point about writing, and linking to, related posts.

Accept guest posts

Why struggle to write posts when you can get someone else to do it for you? Open up your blog to guest posters to give you new content that you may not have thought of writing yourself.

There are many places to find people willing to submit articles to other’s blogs. A good place to start is MyBlogGuest.com.

Just ensure you have some form of quality control in place to ensure you’re getting unique content that’s right for your blog.

Post “filler” content (sparingly)

If you’re still stuck for something to write about, you can post “filler” content.

As the name suggests, this is basically something you can put together reasonably quickly to ensure you hit your deadline.

This could be a video that may benefit your readers (guilty) or a list of posts from other bloggers you’ve found interesting that week.

Although this is something I’ve noticed a lot of other bloggers doing recently, I wouldn’t recommend posting filler too often or you’re likely to see your subscriber count drop.

If someone’s subscribed to your feed or your email updates, it’s because they’re interested in what you have to say. Give them what they want.

russian dolls

A quick guide to up-selling your freelance services

russian dolls

Up-selling and cross-selling are a natural part of business. If you buy a large coffee instead of a smaller, cheaper option, that’s up-selling. If you buy a muffin as well, that’s cross-selling.

It happens everywhere, and if you want to do well as a freelancer, you need to get used to up-selling and cross-selling your services.

Clients will likely come to you with a specific need and will disappear once you’ve done what they require. You therefore need to turn them into a returning client, or at least offer them additional services that they may not have considered before they vanish and the opportunity has gone.

Think “attachment sales”

In retail, an attachment is an additional item that compliments another a customer is already planning to buy. The muffin with your coffee, or whipped cream and marshmallows in your hot chocolate are extra sales on top of what you were already buying.

What additional services can you offer your clients that perhaps they haven’t considered?

If you’re a web designer discussing a project with a client for example, a possible cross-sell would be branded Facebook and Google+ covers, Twitter and YouTube backgrounds, and uniform avatars for all their social media accounts, on top of that new site design.

If they want a YouTube background, do they also need a custom title graphic that will be displayed at the start of each one?

Sell clients benefits

Businesses don’t like spending money. Therefore they need to see the benefits of the extra services you’re offering before they’ll consider investing.

The client may not have considered branding their social media accounts, but by explaining how it will help improve their overall brand awareness, you’ve got a good chance of them agreeing to go ahead with it.

If they’re unsure about that title graphic you mentioned, explain how this will help their brand exposure if someone embeds their videos on another site.

Team up with other people

It’s worth building up a contact list of other freelancers and businesses who compliment your own skills, and negotiating a fee for referring your clients to them.

I get a lot of enquiries about web design projects but since I don’t offer web design as a service myself, I instead prefer to outsource these to designers and developers I know, taking a small fee in the process.

Just be sure that whoever you’re passing work onto is reliable and produces work to a high standard.

Why up-selling is essential

Many new freelancers seem to struggle with the idea of attempting to get more money from clients.

Trying to convince someone they need a more expensive service may somehow seem greedy and underhand, but all businesses do it because it increases their profits.

And if you’re freelance business isn’t profitable, sadly it’s only a matter of time before you’re in financial trouble.

Don’t come across as desperate or pushy, but do try and squeeze extra money out of your clients. After all, I bet they’d happily pay you less (or nothing) if you gave them the opportunity.