Using Wunderlist to Keep Track of Client Tasks

Staying organized is one of the most important keys to success for freelancers. You need a task management system that ensures that nothing falls between the cracks. The best system will be the one that works for you.

I’ve known people who write everything on post-it notes and others who prefer to digitally record all of their tasks.

I do a mix of both. I keep all tasks online, using the free app Wunderlist, and I also write up a to-do list on paper each morning.

Tracking tasks with Wunderlist

I use Wunderlist to keep track of all client and personal tasks.

When I receive a task in my email, I read it over and then copy/paste into Wunderlist. I save these tasks individually in the client’s list.

If a due date is provided, I add it. My standard turnaround time is 48 hours unless a different deadline was agreed upon.

I set a reminder on each task for the day before it’s due.

When the deadline approaches, Wunderlist will display a pop-up reminder and send an email about the task.

How I organize Wunderlist

To set up Wunderlist, I created two main folders – Clients and Inactive Clients.

In those folders, I create a new list for each client labeled with the client’s name.

In those lists, I add all of the daily tasks for the client.

I also keep my personal to-dos in Wunderlist under categories such as “Housework, Admin, and Things to Buy.” I also record tasks for this blog and The Sturm Agency in Wunderlist.

Other features of Wunderlist

The free version of Wunderlist has numerous other features including:

  • Subtasks, notes, files, and comments. You can add these components to each task.
  • Setting recurring tasks. I have numerous recurring tasks, usually involving invoicing or doing some specific task each week or month.
  • Starring. This allows you to prioritize or distinguish a specific task.
  • Sharing. You can share lists with another person.
  • Emailing and printing list

Paid plans include even more features like:

  • Unlimited subtasks
  • Unlimited files
  • Unlimited assigning/delegating tasks
  • More backgrounds

The pro plan makes collaborating with teammates on Wunderlist streamlined and simple.

Using a paper to-do list

I prefer to be a little old school in my daily approach. Each morning I look at Wunderlist to determine which tasks are due that day then I write up a to-do list on paper. I previously used a small notebook from Amazon ($10), but am now using Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year to-do list that came with her 2017 planners.

I write down my to-do list items in order of importance. Typically the first 1-3 tasks must be done that day while the others have some leeway.

I enjoy both crossing something off a tangible list as well as clicking on a checkbox online. My system works for me because it allows me to keep everything in place while focusing on what I need to do today.

Finding a system that works for you will ensure that you never miss a deadline again. 

**This post contains affiliate links**

 

Using Wunderlist to Keep Track of Client Tasks

How to Develop Your Personal Brand as a Freelancer

Freelancing allows you to pave your own way and make a name for yourself. But how do you stand out from the pack? One of the biggest ways to do this is by having a strong personal brand.

Creating a personal brand can be tricky. You want to stay true to yourself while remaining professional. If you wouldn’t be comfortable saying it in front of mixed company then don’t make it part of your brand.

Three ways to show your personal brand

1) Have a distinctive look to your website with matching social media platforms

One of the best ways to create is a strong personal brand is to have a cohesive look across your online footprint. This includes your website, social media platforms, headshots, signatures, etc. Having a logo and color scheme is a great first step. From there, you want to make sure that everything coordinates so when someone finds your social media profiles they immediately know it’s you.

2) Share things about yourself in your biography or About Me page

Another great way to display your personal brand is to include interesting or personal things about yourself in your biography or About Me page. Use that section as a way to tell the story of how you got to where you are. Talk about where you came from, why you decided to go on this path, and what doing this work means to you.

Many people like including a non-sequitur, like how much they love tacos, in their biography. I think this is OK, but I’d make sure it flows with the rest of your biography. A bunch of random facts about yourself can end up looking like a survey or Facebook post.

Ultimately an About Me page is a way to sell yourself to your client. You want to list your talents and experience while showing your personality, but you don’t want your personality to be the only thing that someone walks away with after reading the page.

3) Express a passion for a cause/event/charity

Your online platform may be the perfect place for you to share something you’re passionate about. Most businesses, especially large corporations, have a charitable giving element.

If there’s a cause or event that you feel strongly about, include that on your website or in your work. Perhaps you could donate a certain amount of your profits to your cause or suggest that others contribute some amount when they work with you. Being an active member in your community is also something that you may want to highlight.

Three ways that personal branding can go wrong

Personal branding will be different for everyone. However, I would not recommend these three methods as ways to stand out.

1) Excessive or unnecessary swearing

This seems to be the most popular go-to for adding edginess or “uniqueness” to a brand. Unfortunately, swearing is not uncommon and most Americans won’t bat an eye at the occasional swear word. When swear words are thrown in for flair or drama, it just looks cheap.

Swearing is a shock and awe tactic that works wonders for Tony Robbins, but doesn’t always come off as well for everyone else. I don’t think excessive swearing has a place in copywriting. If you’re leaning on it as a way to differentiate yourself, it may be time to rethink your strategy because there are literally hundreds of people and brands doing the same thing.

2) Overuse of slang and emojis

Almost everyone uses the occasional bit of slang in their branding. Some slang, like the word ‘cool’, has become so culturally ingrained that you may not even realize you’re using it. Even though I regularly hear new slang, I rarely use it in my personal brand.

One of the main deterrents from using new, popular slang is that it dates your work. If you’re using 2014’s hottest phrase throughout your copy, your page is frozen in time. Unless you’re going to update all of your “on fleeks” to the current year’s version, you’re going to look irrelevant.

Emojis are fun to use, but can be easily abused. Using emojis gives a brand a playful image and adds an element of humanity to the message. However, using too many emojis or using them too frequently can look unoriginal and juvenile. If you can’t fully express yourself without an emoji then you might want to work on tightening up your writing skills.

3) Writing in one sentence paragraphs

It has become very popular to write blogs entirely in one sentence paragraphs. A typical blog will look like this:

This product is what you need.

Everything about this product is exactly. What. You. Need.

While breaking things up into paragraphs does make your copy easier on the eyes and keeps the reader more engaged, having an entire page of 1-2 sentence paragraphs is becoming cliche. This can’t be considered anyone’s particular style because, just like random swearing, it has been adopted by too many people.

It may take time to find and develop your personal brand style. You may have a few versions of it as you go along. Don’t be afraid to take some risks and put more of yourself into your business. Everyone wants to feel that there’s a real person on the other end of a transaction. And if you don’t like your brand, you can always change it!

How to Develop Your Personal Brand as a Freelancer

Setting up Your Maternity Leave as a Freelancer

During my first pregnancy, I was a full-time employee at a large company. They offered six weeks of paid leave (at a percentage of your salary) as well as the option to apply for a 12 week Family Medical Leave Act running in conjunction with your maternity leave. This would give a maximum of 12 weeks leave, six unpaid.

The facility I worked at had a beautiful “mother’s room” with a comfortable leather chair for pumping and a fridge for storing your milk. I only had the opportunity to use it once when I brought Norah in for a visit because I did not return after my maternity leave.

When I got the great news that I was pregnant with #2, I knew this would be a different experience. I was now a part-time freelancer and full-time mother to a 2 ½ year old. I had no childcare help. I knew I needed to get organized and I had nine months to do it.

Here are my tips for setting up a maternity leave while freelancing.

Make a budget

The most important part of freelancing while pregnant is being organized! You need to have a plan for your workload and your maternity leave.

Shortly after I found out that I was having a viable pregnancy, I started making plans.

I knew that I need to make approximately $2,000 per month to keep our budget the same. I decided early on that I wanted to take a minimum of 10 weeks off with this pregnancy. I had 10 weeks off with Norah and felt that it was the right amount of time to recover, get into a new routine, and want to start working again.

Deciding on 10 weeks gave me a monetary goal I needed to shoot for. I would need to make a minimum of $5,000 to cover the 10 weeks off. I preferred to set the goal for $6,000 so I’d have some wiggle room.

I started taking on extra work where I could. I pitched for more clients, raised my rates for current clients and requested more work from the people I subcontract for.

Here’s the breakdown of how this helped:

New clients:

First off, I vowed not take on a new client for under $30 per hour. I started with a $32 per hour rate and often didn’t dip below $35. The only exception was people purchasing virtual assistant packages.

Raising rates:

For one client, I raised the rates 32% because I had not received a pay raise in the 15 months we had been working together. For the another client, it was 20%. This brought in an additional $200 per month and only added a few more hours per month to my workload.

Subcontracting work:

Subcontracting work was where I found my biggest gains. I was able to increase my hours and go from making around $100 per week with one client to an average of $400. This alone gave me an additional $1600 per month to put towards the $6,000 goal.

Do this: Figure out how much you would need to make during your time off then add 10%. You want to make sure you’re not scrambling for work while dealing with sleep deprivation and raging hormones.

Inform clients

Because of my previous miscarriage, I wasn’t comfortable telling my clients about my pregnancy until I had confirmed that everything was normal. I waited until my 20 week anatomy ultrasound on February 15 to draft the email and set up meetings with clients.

I let my clients know how much I enjoyed working with them and that I was excited to share some personal news. I told them when I was due and that I would be working as normal up until that time. I personalized the letter to each client to address the specific tasks that I did for them.

There were clients that I was able to ask if I could batch work and complete things before going on leave, therefore leaving me some incoming money. There were others that I had to tell I wouldn’t be available in any capacity for 10 weeks. It depended on the client and the workload. I told them all that I planned to continue working together when I returned around September 15.

I decided that I would set a return date based on 10 weeks from the latest I could possibly have the baby. Should I have the baby earlier, then I would have more time to spend with him.

I didn’t want to worry about informing everyone that I’d had the baby and I would be off for 10 weeks from that point. Instead I told them to expect me to become unavailable around the last week of June/first week of July and returning September 15.

Do this: Be honest and upfront with your clients when you break the news. Tell them how much you appreciate their business and hope to continue the relationship. Then let the chips fall where they may. Some people will work with you while others may end the relationship. You have no control over your client’s reactions so try not to stress about it.

Work more

I knew that in the month leading up to my delivery, I would have to work more than usual. I did this by finding time to work when I could. This included working in the morning before Norah woke up, working in the evening while my husband fixed dinner, and forgoing some of my favorite shows to work in my office at night. This isn’t something that I would do long-term, but as a means to a (very important) end, I was motivated to keep my foot on the gas pedal.

I knew that I would have 10 weeks of doing nothing but caring for my new baby and toddler at the end of this grueling time period and that was absolutely worth it to me.

Having an end goal in place kept me sane and motivated to work.

Do this: Resist the urge to take it easy throughout your pregnancy. Even though you are tired now, you will be exhausted once the baby comes. Trust this second-time mama! Get as much done as possible before baby comes. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Relax and enjoy your leave

After all the preparations have been made, the last thing I need to do is relax and enjoy my maternity leave. I worked hard to set everything up and want to be able to enjoy it without worrying about work. The first few weeks with a new baby are so special and they go by extremely quickly.

Preparing for maternity leave as soon as possible is the best option for a freelancer. You are in control of how much time you take off and your financial situation. Make a plan, work hard, and enjoy the time with your precious new life.

Special note: My husband was also instrumental in preparing for my maternity leave. Although I was confident I’d be able to make the goal myself, he worked hard during my pregnancy to get a raise at his job and take on some additional freelancing work to add to the pot.
Setting up your maternity leave as a freelancer

How to Use Time Blocking to Organize Your Day

As a freelancer, you must be organized. I use time blocking to manage my day and stay on track. Time blocking is the process of dividing your day into chunks of time designated for specific activities or tasks.

When you’re just starting out, you may not see the value in time blocking, but once you’re managing multiple clients and their demands, you will find it very useful.

Here are two ways that I’ve used time blocking to plan my day.

Option 1: Time blocking by client

Time blocking by client involves setting specific times each day to work on client’s projects.

Time blocking by client would look something like this:

Monday

9 – 11 am: Client A

11 – 1 pm: Client B

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 4 pm: Client C

If you only had three clients, this would repeat each day. If you had more than three clients then the second day would look like this:

Tuesday

9 – 11 am: Client D

11 – 1 pm: Client E

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 4 pm: Client F

Monday’s schedule would repeat on Wednesday and Friday and Tuesday’s schedule would repeat on Thursday.

You should strategically schedule your clients depending on their workload and personalities. ‘High touch’ clients that need more frequent communication should be placed on Monday’s schedule so you’ll interact with them three times per week. Clients with smaller workloads or infrequent communication could be placed on Tuesday’s schedule.

If a client did not have work for you to do on their day, you could move to the next client on your list. You could also use the time to work on a side hustle or take a break. Here are 10 things you could do for your business with 30 spare minutes.

If you think that this schedule would not work for you then you can try using shorter blocks of time each day. This way you’d interact with each client every day.

Monday

9 – 10 am: Client A

10 – 11 am: Client B

11 – 12 pm: Client C

12 – 1 pm: Client D

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 3 pm: Client E

3 – 4 pm: Client F

The same idea applies, you can skip to the next client if you have no tasks from a particular client that day. With this schedule, you could potentially be finished working at 3 pm if one client had no tasks or 2 pm if two clients were not requesting anything.

Depending on how many clients you have, you can experiment with making the time blocks longer or shorter.

I would warn against scheduling less than 30 minutes per client because it will not give you enough time to start a task, make progress, or complete it.

Option 2: Time blocking by task

Another way you can time block your calendar is by task. This method involves taking similar tasks and scheduling them throughout your day. This method is similar to batching your work.

You can time block by task in two ways:

Single focus day

In this option, each day of the week would have a specific focus.

Monday – Administrative work including expenses

Tuesday – Research and writing

Wednesday – Social media work

Thursday – Phone calls, meetings and emails

Friday – Housekeeping and tying up loose ends

If you have the same types of tasks for each client, you may want to separate your days by what you are doing. That way you can get all of one type of work done on a specific day. Once you’re done with that work, you’re done for the day.

In this scenario, you would be less likely to interact with all of your clients each working day.

One possible negative of this set-up is that it could lead to some very inconsistent working days. Monday you might work for two hours and Tuesday could be 8-10 hours.

Multi-focus day

In this option, you would work on each category every day.

Monday – Friday

9 – 11 am: Administrative work and expenses

11 – 12 pm: Research and writing

12 – 1 pm: Social media work

1 – 2 pm: Break/Lunch

2 – 3 pm: Phone calls, meetings and emails

3 – 4 pm: Housekeeping

Figuring out the best way to time block your calendar is a learning process. Time blocking should make you feel more organized, not frazzled. If one method isn’t working for you, try another approach.

Ultimately, your clients should see no change in service while you decide how to best structure your day. You want to make sure you are still reliable, available, and providing high-quality services. Ideally, your client should notice an improvement in productivity and responsiveness!

How to use time blocking to organize your day

Freelancers & Mamas, Work When You Can

As a freelancing mama, it’s hard to find time to get everything done. During my first year freelancing, I struggled to find a balance. I was working when I should have been doing other things like cleaning, exercising, relaxing, or spending time with my family. I didn’t get to enjoy my self-made schedule.

I thought that working from home meant I needed to be working every moment that I was at home. This was exhausting because I’m home 95% of the week. I couldn’t possibly work during all of my waking hours. That wouldn’t be fair to my husband, daughter, or myself.

After a year, I got into a better routine and became more comfortable with the idea that I didn’t need to constantly work. I realized work was always going to be there. I wasn’t ever going to reach a point where I completed absolutely everything, emptied the 4-6 inboxes I manage, and wrapped up all of my personal projects and goals.

Instead of worrying about working all the time, I started working when I could.

I used these methods to find a better work/life balance.

Wake up earlier

One way to I was able to get things done without feeling the panic of needing to do other things was by waking up earlier. Sleep is very important and I make sure to get at least 7 hours per night, but I didn’t need to get 9-10 hours every day. Instead, I would wake up before my daughter and get some work done in complete silence.

I found that 1-2 hours of concentrated work, without my daughter, was often more productive than 3-4 hours of work with my daughter around.

I don’t particularly like getting up earlier, but I know that I always have the option especially when my workload is heavy.

Dedicate one evening per week to working

Thursdays are usually my working nights. I go down in my office around 7 pm and stay there until 10 or 11. I don’t do this any other day of the week (unless there’s an urgent request or emergency).

Only doing it one night per week makes it tolerable. If I did this every night, I wouldn’t have any time with my husband. I chose Thursdays because my husband and I stay up later on Fridays and spend time together. Even if I’ve had a frustrating night working, I always go to bed thinking “It’s OK, tomorrow night I’ll relax.”

I also sneak in a little more office time when my husband travels. He travels for work anywhere from 2-10 days per month. When he’s gone, I typically spend the evenings working after I put my daughter to sleep.

Do a little work on the weekends

Most weekend days, I go downstairs and shut myself in my office for two hours. I typically do this as soon as I wake up.

I do my 30 minutes of writing and then tackle client work for 90 minutes. I can get a surprising amount of stuff done in that time because I’m 100% focused on completing tasks. When I come back upstairs at 10:30 or 11 am, I don’t feel like I’ve missed any of the day and my stress levels are decreased because I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Work in spurts

It will be years before I can work for an uninterrupted eight hours again. I plan on continuing to grow my business and work for myself for the rest of my life. This means that I probably won’t be working eight hour days until my daughter goes into kindergarten in three years. At that point, I hope to have more children that would still be home. With the amount of children I’d like, I estimate 3 – 10 years from now before I would work full-time hours again.

Instead of worrying about how much I’m working, I grab 10 minutes here and there throughout the day. My daughter can entertain herself long enough for me to respond to a few emails or jot down some thoughts for a future project or blog.

My brain has learned to run on spurts. I’ve gotten so much better at getting focused immediately. In college, I would sit at my desk for hours before I began writing a paper. Now, it’s do or die. I use the 10 minutes or I waste it. And I don’t want to waste it.

Take on less

At some point, you may realize that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. As my daughter has gotten older, I had to become comfortable with taking on less. This has many perks. I’m able to take my daughter to lessons, mom’s groups, playdates or the library in the middle of the day without worrying about not being able to finish my work.

Having a decreased workload means that I only take on high paying, quality work. I’m no longer pitching for things on Upwork or accepting content mill jobs because it’s not worth my time.

It’s hard balancing a business and a family. Much like running a side hustle when you’re a full-time employee, you just have to find the time where you can.

You won’t always work a consistent schedule each week. Some weeks you’ll find more time and other weeks will be so packed with personal obligations that you may feel like you’re getting nothing done.

When you look at your accomplishments, try to take the long view. It doesn’t matter if today was unproductive if the past two weeks have been great. One of the greatest benefits of working for yourself is that you decide when you work – and you work when you can.

work-when-you-can

February 2017 Business Report

I’m pulling the curtain back on my small business!

Starting this month, I’ve decided to share my monthly business reports. In these reports, I’ll discuss the month’s positives and negatives as well as progress I’ve made towards my 2017 goals. I’ll also give a snapshot my earnings.

Although I’m starting the recaps this month, I have to admit, it’s been one of the worst months I’ve had since I started my business in 2015.

Here’s what happened.

Positives

I should have done this so much sooner! Within a week of adding an easy-to-use contact form to my Squarespace website, I received two client requests. Ultimately, one did not work out, but the other did.

I got a brand new client without the effort of pitching or self-promotion. I have always had my email address in a visible location on my page, but adding the Work With Me contact form made a huge difference. If you don’t have one, get one!

  • Raised client rates

I had two long-term clients (1.5 years and 2 years) who had not had a rate increase since I started working with them. My work load had changed and my experience had grown so I knew I needed to raise my rates. I wrote about this topic as I was doing it so saying “feel the fear and raise your rates anyway” was as much for readers as it was for myself.

  • Started regularly cold emailing

As you’ll read in my negatives section, I unexpectedly lost two clients this month. Although, this was a negative, it led to a positive. I began cold emailing local businesses and organizations on a daily basis. I set a goal of sending out five emails/messages per business day. I began this practice near the end of February and have not had sales yet.

  • Set daily social media goals

I know how important an active social media presence is for small businesses, but I’m often so busy doing client work that I don’t practice what I preach and put time into my own business. In February, I set the goal of following 10 people on Twitter and pinning 10-20 things each day. I’ll continue to up my social media game once The Sturm Agency site is live in March.

I decided to shift some of my attention to making this blog more successful. I enrolled in Elite Blog Academy and have started working on the lessons. I’m really excited to see where this takes me!

Negatives

  • Loss of two long-time clients

A client that I’d be working with since Zirtual days (August 2014) who was also my highest paying client, made a business change and no longer needed my services. The announcement was a bit of a shock, but I had noticed a slowing down in usage over the past few months. There was a sudden problem with paying my invoices on time. This client ultimately refused to pay me for my last month of service.

Although this is not the only client I’ve lost, this experience was a learning lesson for me on several fronts. I was given no notice that work was ending, but was simply told “don’t work from today on”. That day happened to be my birthday.

I also lost a client who decided to use another company. This client loss surprised me because we’d also been working together for two years. Unfortunately, I’d made a small error about a month ago that the client was very upset about. I have to believe it contributed to my dismissal. This client gave me a week’s notice, but then canceled payment three days later.

Here’s what I learned:

1) Always have a contract in place. I had never put together a formal contract with these clients and I wished I had. It may not have gotten me anything more than 30 days notice or an extra payment, but that would have made a difference.

2) Don’t have too much tied up in one client. I preach diversification and am working towards that model, but one particular client still held too much of my monthly income (around 45%). Their leaving caused me to scramble for new clients.

3) Don’t assume that small business owners or entrepreneurs will give you the same courtesy that they’d want. I was very surprised to find that both clients ended the relationship with very little notice and showed a lack of caring, respect and integrity during our final interactions. These clients are entrepreneurs who have fluctuating incomes based on booking gigs or securing projects. This experience made me vow to have a more compassionate approach should I ever hire someone and need to stop services.

Progress towards business goals

1) Increase my income by $10,000

The goal took a hit with the loss of two clients. I think I can recover from this, but it will be a bit of a struggle. I’ve had to look for more opportunities and ask for more subcontracting work in the meantime.

2) Get another local client

I’ve begun the process of seeking out new local clients through cold emailing and word of mouth, but have not secured one yet. I hope to have at least one new local client in March.

3) Launch The Sturm Agency website

I think we’re going to use Squarespace for The Sturm Agency, but I’m not sure yet. I really love the simplicity of it and because I don’t intend on monetizing the site. I intend on keeping it as a “business information only” site while maintaining Freelancing Mama as my blog and future monetization opportunity. I plan to get something live by the end of March.

4) Launch my freelancer idea

I have not made any progress on this goal yet.

5) Sponsor something in the community

Nothing jumped out as the right opportunity in February, but I will continue to keep looking for possible sponsorships in the Roscoe, Rockton or Rockford, IL areas.

Income Snapshot

untitled-presentation

I may eventually share the actual numbers associated with my income, but for now I’m not comfortable doing that. I will be sharing this income snapshot to show a trend of my income throughout the year.

This income came from a mixture of social media management, virtual assistant work, one-off organization projects, and content writing.

Overall, it was a rough month, but I’m confident that March will bring better luck.

feb-2017-business-report

How To Choose The Right Client For You

During your freelancing career, you’ll work with many different clients. The great thing about this is you get to choose your clients! In a lot of ways, choosing a client is like choosing a friend or significant other. An ideal match should bring together two people with a shared interest in success, similar working styles, and equal amounts of trust on both sides. Ultimately, your goal should be maintaining long-term relationships with your clients. After all, good clients can be hard to find.

What Type of Client Are You Looking For?

Your working preferences should point you towards your ideal client. If you want to hold traditional 9-5 hours then working with a night owl entrepreneur may not make sense. If you want to work at any time of day then a CEO at a Fortune 500 may not be the best fit. In addition, it depends on the type of freelancing work you’re doing. If you’re a virtual assistant, you may need to have regular check-ins and be available all day on email; this may not be the case for a website designer.

Other facets to consider are a client’s communication and management styles. Some clients are hands-off while others are micromanagers. Some want to speak daily while others prefer shooting off weekly emails. Being aware of your preferences can help you find your ideal clients.

I don’t like talking on the phone. I can do it, and I have a professional and friendly demeanor that would not tip anyone off to the fact that I don’t like phone conversations, but being on the phone is my not favorite thing to do. Adding a loud toddler to the mix has only furthered my dislike. I express myself more clearly and succinctly in writing and I like having a paper trail that I can look back on and double check for accuracy and completion. Regular phone calls are not a deal breaker, but they are something I’d consider a “con” when choosing a client.

Finding Your Best Client Fit

There’s something special about finding the right client; someone who just gets you. You don’t have to worry that an email came off too brusque or that the client didn’t think your joke was funny. People that don’t make you feel like you have to be “on” are good fits for clients.

However, you are still running a business and delivering a service so you don’t want to be too casual. You’re not doing a favor for a friend, you’re being paid for your services and that deserves a certain level of professionalism.

My ideal client is tech-savvy and wants to communicate primarily over email, text, or messaging service. I prefer someone who can give me orders then trust that I’ll have the vision to carry them through. I prefer an easy-going personality and don’t like clients who try to make their urgency my emergency. I’ve found my best clients from a variety of sources.

When you’re choosing clients, two things are important to keep in mind.

Know Your Interests

If I have no interest in agriculture then I’m probably not going to look for a client who runs a family farm or sells pesticide. Although I’m confident that I could research the industry and gain a working knowledge over time, I would find absolutely no joy in it.

Time flies when you’re doing things that interest you. You should look for clients that are working in fields or industries that you feel a connection to. It’s tempting to grab whatever clients you can get when you’re just starting out, but that strategy will ultimately cost you time (and money!). If you have to do a lot of background work before you start the part of your job that you get paid to do, you’re going to make very little or even lose money. For example, if you need to research trends in industry X to write a blog post, because you have no familiarity with the industry, it may take three hours to pull together a few reputable references. A person who is already interested in the industry may be able to get their sources within 15 minutes. This could be the difference between making $100 per hour or $10.

Know Your Deal Breakers

Do you hate when people are late? Are you allergic to small talk? Knowing your deal breakers will give you a better sense of who your clients should be. Even when you work for yourself, you still have to work with and for other people. If you can’t get along or see eye-to-eye, you won’t be able to achieve your goals. Don’t waste precious time trying to force a relationship with a mismatched client. There is a client out there for everyone and you cannot be the best person for every job. If you keep your standards high, your profits will be too.

Clients are the lifeblood of your business. Although you can’t please everyone all the time, you have a much better chance of keeping clients and making them happy if you only work with people who are a good match. Take your time vetting potential clients before starting work together. You may not earn as much as someone who takes every client, but not having to work with difficult people is one of the greatest perks of being a freelancer and you can’t put a price on that.

The Five Best Places I’ve Found Freelancing Jobs

Finding freelancing jobs can be tough. You have to watch out for spammy Craigslist postings and sites that want you to pay to see available work. You may think you need to spend money before you can make money. You don’t need to do that! There are many reputable sites where you can find freelancing jobs at no cost to you.

Throughout my freelancing career, I’ve had great luck finding jobs from these five resources:

1) Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance)

Upwork touts themselves as “the premier platform for top companies to hire and work with the world’s most talented independent professionals.” They have over 10M registered coders, writers, marketers, designers, developers and other freelancers using their platform. The best thing about Upwork is that it’s extremely easy to use; fill out your profile and you can start pitching for jobs immediately. The downside is that there is a lot of competition. Most jobs have 20+ applicants and some will underbid to get the job. Pitching for a job requires Connects, usually 1-5 per job. With a free account, you will get 60 connects per month, but if that’s not enough, you can upgrade to 70 for $10 per month.

Upwork is where I connected with my first paying freelancing job. It was a blog writing gig that eventually included social media management duties for a Twitter account. I made about $200 from this platform. I occasionally check for jobs, but as I’ve gained experience and raised my rates, I’ve found that the average price per job is too low. However, this is a great place for a new freelancer to start building their portfolio. Keep in mind, you may need to sacrifice pay for experience at first.

Cost: Free to use, but Upwork takes a 10% fee

2) CloudPeeps

CloudPeeps is made up of “world’s top marketing, content, social media and community pros.” CloudPeeps is more exclusive with only ~1000 freelancers working in the platform. This means the jobs are easier to secure, but the competition is stiff. There are many well-known internet marketers, community managers, and PR pros working on the platform. CloudPeeps is more than a job posting site, it’s also a community of creative professionals who assist and support each other.

CloudPeeps was my launchpad into freelancing. I joined the community in October 2014 and soon had three clients under my belt. In 2015, I was named one of the top 10 most successful Peeps of the year. I have made around $20,000 from jobs on the platform in the past 18 months.

Cost: Free to use, but CloudPeeps takes a 15% fee for a CP-hosted job, and a 5% fee to manage your own clients using the platform

3) Indeed

Indeed is the Google for job postings. I’ve set up two searches that are automatically sent to my email each day. One search is for “remote, freelance, writing, blogging, marketing, and social media” and the other is for any job in my local area.

I have a local search in place because it gives me an idea of companies that are growing and looking to hire in my area. These companies may need the marketing services that I offer. If I come across these postings, I occasionally send out a cold email introducing myself as a local marketing professional and detailing my services.

I’ve secured one local client from Indeed searches and applied for several remote part-time positions. I’ve made around $5,000 from jobs found on Indeed.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

4) LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most popular business networking site and the best place to have your online resume. Keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date can be a great way to get jobs. I’ve been approached several times by local businesses asking if I’d like to collaborate. I credit that to the fact that my profile is complete and up-to-date. Make sure you note that you’re a freelancer and what your skills are. As you build your portfolio, be sure to add links to your best work in the experience section.

I’ve made about $400 on jobs that originated from connections on LinkedIn.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

5) Social Media (Twitter and Facebook)

Having a regularly updated social media presence is so important for any business. People will search social media, especially if you are touting yourself as a marketer, to see if you ‘walk the talk’. My personal social sharing formula is 75% other people’s content, 25% my own. You don’t want your social feeds to be too self-promotional; that can be off-putting. Share things that resonate with you – did you love the message of someone’s article, do think other people should read it? Position yourself as a lifelong learner by commenting on current issues and news stories in your area of expertise. Remember to tag writers and publications when you share their content. It can be helpful to use hashtags to draw attention to your post, but more than two per post is excessive.

I haven’t made any money through social media yet, but I have been offered opportunities (guest blog posts and connections to people in my field), that may lead to jobs in the future.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

Special Mention

Problogger

Problogger is a board for blog writing jobs. I’ve pitched, but never been hired through this platform. I frequently check the site and there are always high-paying jobs listed. This is a place that you should check out if you’re looking to build your writing portfolio.

Cost: Free to use, no fees

Other resources for finding freelancing jobs

There are many more resources to find freelancing jobs that I have not tried yet. I’ve compiled some helpful articles with more extensive lists below:

15 Best Freelance Websites to Find Jobs via Entrepreneur
25 Top Sites for Finding the Freelancing Job You Want via Skillcrush
71 Great Website to Find Freelance Jobs via Freshbooks

Why Freelancing was Made for Women

As freelancing gains momentum, a new category of women in the workplace is forming. These women, like myself, are creating the career paths they desire. Freelancing gives you the freedom to set your own hours, take on as much or as little work as you want, use your greatest talents while avoiding the areas where you don’t shine, and exponentially increase your salary.

Women make up more than half of the freelancers working in the US. It’s not surprising because there is a still a huge amount of disparity between the male and female work experience. Freelancing has numerous benefits for women that the traditional workplace doesn’t.

No Glass Ceilings

For as long as women have been working, glass ceilings have slowed or stopped their career progress. Instead of expending energy trying to become one of the only 24 women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, why not create your own business and give yourself the title you want? As a freelancer, your success is based on how hard (and smart) you work instead of outdated hierarchical systems, boy’s clubs, or gender-biased career tracking.

Better Work / Life Balance

Women are still responsible for most of the household duties even when they hold traditional 9-5 jobs. To complicate matters, the bulk of childcare also falls on the female’s shoulders. Freelancing gives women more time in the home and more flexibility with their schedules. Often a job with “flexible hours” isn’t very flexible. You may deal with inefficient in-person meetings or outdated office cultures praising time spent at the desk over quality of completed work.

Women may need to take the kids to school, pick up groceries, and keep the household in order during the day. This could lead to hours looking something like this:

6-8 am : Working
8-11 am : Errands and child care
11-4 pm : Working
4-7 pm : Family time
7-9 pm : Working

Even if this schedule was approved, there would undoubtedly be pressure from coworkers to maintain a more standard schedule. Ask a Manager often receives emails complaining about coworker’s flexible schedules. What’s worse, even when you’ve earned vacation time, you may feel too pressured to take it. Many companies that offer unlimited vacation find that their employees end up using less time than those with traditional Paid Time Off allowances. Until the antiquated culture of “butts in chairs = hard work” dies, it’s going to be a struggle to have a truly flexible schedule.

With freelancing, you have much more control of not only when you work, but how much work you take on. If you need to balance your household, you can do so. If you want to spend 60 hours a week growing your business, it’s your choice. Ideally, no single client will own enough of your time to demand that you maintain traditional working hours. Seek out clients who are understanding of the changing work landscape. I’ve found my best clients are often other freelancers, entrepreneurs, and people working in small startups.

Greater Earning Potential

On average, women are making $.78 for every $1 a man makes. Freelancing can close the gap. Women can demand the pay they deserve for the work they do. In a traditional position, you have some control over your initial salary agreement and whether you receive yearly increases, bonuses or promotions. Sadly, women tend to leave money on the table in negotiations more often than men. As a freelancer, you’re able to set your own rate, adjust it per task or client, and raise rates as you gain skills instead of waiting for a yearly review to plead your case.

In an area with a low cost-of-living, such as my hometown, it’s difficult to find a high-paying job, especially in a creative field. The options are limited and there’s a lot of competition. Many people commute into the suburbs or Chicago to earn higher paychecks and work in their preferred industry. Freelancing allows people in rural areas to earn “big city” wages.

Until traditional career paths become an equal playing field for both genders, freelancing is a great option to pursue the career you’ve imagined for yourself. Whether you are currently in college, working a 9-5 job, or are a stay-at-home mom, you can start freelancing by building up a side hustle of one-off projects and part-time jobs. Once you’ve had a taste of the freelancing life, you won’t want to go back to the status quo.