Featured Homepreneur: Stephanie Watson, Content Strategist and Writer

Sparkplugging Feature Stephanie WatsonSparkplugging represents the work-at-home community. We make things happen and work hard but also cherish other aspects of our lives. I am delighted to be a part of the resource that Sparkplugging offers to home-based businesses and the inspiration it exudes for those who have aspirations to fulfill their work-at-home dream. In addition, it is with great pleasure that I am able to share individual stories of awesome home-based entrepreneurs.

Today we’re recognizing and shining a spotlight on one of our terrific contributors, Stephanie Watson.  Stephanie is  a content strategist, writer and owner of Barry Publishing.

Please enjoy Stephanie Watson’s work-at-home profile which will give you a glimpse of her home-based business and the entrepreneur who runs it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first decided to start a business from home.

Back in the early 1990′s I had little children at home and was expecting another, which would make our total of three girls quite expensive to put in daycare. Since my husband was in the Army and I didn’t have that many skills, I started a childcare business. During that time my husband got me a computer. I had never used one before other than a Commodore 64.

I took to it right away and quickly figured out I could make money. I taught myself HTML, and by the mid 1990′s I was managing online communities, building local HTML websites, and doing virtual assistant work for local non-profits. It was the best thing in the world. I was no longer tied down with childcare, other than my own kids.

What is it that you do and can you share an interesting fact about your business?

I’m a content strategist, content writer, and dabble in affiliate marketing. To me the most interesting fact about my business is how long I’ve been involved with working from home, which was really since 1992, but finally making enough money to be self-supporting by 1996.

How did you sort through your ideas before you started? Does it align with what you are passionate about?

I am not at all doing today, what I thought I would be doing when I started. If you would have told me you’d spend at least 4 hours a day writing articles I would have thought you lost your mind. But, over the years my business has evolved. As I went back to college and got two degrees I learned that I was good at writing and research. So, it fits and now I could not be happier. Before I found content strategy and writing, I was still looking for that “thing” that was right for me. Now that I’ve found it, I know this is what I was meant to do all along.

Do you offer a signature program or package? How did you decide to put this offer together?

My main package, which I suppose can be called a signature package, is that I offer a 10 pack of original articles / blog posts at a super discounted rate for those who have joined Solo Masterminds through Solosmarts. I give them more than 50 percent off my normal prices. I figure being in a group like that where we help each other makes it worth it. I’m proud to do any work for them because they are all so supportive and helpful of each other.

What do you love and find rewarding about running your business from home?

I love that I didn’t have to leave my kids in childcare. I love that even when I got a divorce I knew I’d be fine. I love that I put myself through college working from home. I love that the center of my life is my family and not my work. Work is important, of course, but work is supposed to allow us to do fun things outside of work with family and friends.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of running your business?

I pretty much have it all together by now. But, I used to find it hard to convince other people that I have a job at all. My ex, and even my current husband have not always respected the fact that I work too. My current husband has learned though and is now very supportive since he watched as I paid off 50,000 worth of debt, saved for a down payment for a house, and bought him a bunch of wood working equipment.

What is some advice you wish you knew before your started your home-based business? Do you have any tips for someone considering a home-based startup?

I wish I knew it was a real career choice. I’ve watched others become much more successful than me over the years who started well after me. I just didn’t take myself seriously and so no one else did. I’m ashamed to say it took until 2011 for me to actually accept that this is a real career, this is my career and my business is unstoppable now. I would advise others to realize this is a real career choice, and honestly it’s more stable than jobs because you get out of it what you put into it. Unlike most jobs where you can work harder but you won’t make any more money.

In terms of your business, what is your vision and hopes for the future?

I have started Monthly Content Helpers. It’s a brand new baby that I need to nurture for the next year or so and build up with content and help for people who are creating content for their own business. I’ve increased my income over 20 percent each year and I am planning to do that again this year. I want to increase my income by 1500 a month, which will be applied to my house loan to pay it off fast.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Sparkplugging community?

The most important thing I can share is finding something to do to make money that makes you feel good about yourself. Stick to that one thing until you make money or determine it to be a flop not because you didn’t try, but because you gave it everything you’ve got and it still didn’t work.

If you would like to learn more about Stephanie Watson’s home-based business please visit barrypublishing.com.

 

The Introverts Answer to a Work at Home Career

This is a guest post from Alicia Jay.  I’ve trusted Alicia with all of my transcription needs here at Sparkplugging and she rocks it out everytime. I’m glad she’s training others to do the same excellent work - Kelly

mickeyboard

It’s 2:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday. You’re sitting in front of your computer catching up with friends on Facebook, writing, blogging or some other fun online activity. Your fingers are happily click-clacking away and you don’t even need to glance at your keyboard as you type. You’re in sweats and a t-shirt. All is right with the world.

Then you start daydreaming about a lifestyle where you could do this at 2:00 in the afternoon on a weekday. No in-person meetings. No standing up in front of anyone to give a presentation. Just you, your computer and your sweats—and you’re getting paid. You think this could never be your reality? Well, you’re wrong!

I live that lifestyle. As a general transcriptionist working from home, I’m able to do a job that I love without leaving the comfort of my home office. Let me tell you a little more about transcription.

What is General Transcription?

General transcription is not to be confused with medical or legal transcription. They are similar in that the job consists of listening to an audio file and typing what you hear. However, it is not as often that a general transcriptionist will be called upon for a verbatim transcript. A verbatim transcript is an exact written version of the audio file. It includes any and all false starts, unfinished sentences and instances where the speaker says “um” or “uh.”

Most clients working with a general transcriptionist will want a cleaned-up version of a transcript. They want all of the above mentioned items removed. They want you to fix sentence structure and create a nice, clean, easy-to-read version of the audio.

Who Needs General Transcription?

There are a lot of people out there who work with general transcriptionists, such as:

  • Bloggers
  • Authors/writers
  • Business coaches
  • Colleges/universities
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Virtual assistants

The list goes on and on but that should give you an idea. These people often hold webinars, teleseminars, podcasts and interviews. They can use the transcript of these files to give away for free, repurpose on their website or bundle with other products/services that they can charge for.

Skills Needed for General Transcription

Now that you have an idea of what general transcription is and who will pay you for this service, let’s get into the skills that you need. Great typing skills are first on the list but there are other things like:

  • Being a great listener
  • The ability to follow client directions
  • Typing accuracy
  • Good grasp of the English language
  • Excellent grammar and spelling skills
  • Proofreading ability
  • Willingness to research unfamiliar terms

You might be thinking, “This sounds great but I don’t have all of those skills you listed and I definitely don’t have the experience.” I didn’t have all of that either when I started out. I was a super-fast typist with great grammar and listening skills, but I didn’t have any experience with transcription. I employed the trial-by-fire method when taking on my first client (which I don’t necessarily recommend) and I learned a lot. Practice really does make perfect in this field. The more you do it, the faster you get and the more accurate you will be. Having someone to critique sample files was also really helpful in honing my skills.

Today, I confidently take on transcription work knowing that clients will be thrilled with the outcome—and that I get to stay in my sweats! If you’re happy being the one behind-the-scenes getting things done and you enjoy typing then a career in general transcription is right for you!

What do you say we stop daydreaming about the lifestyle you want to have and start making it happen?

Get Better At Taking Action Than Making Excuses

get-good--at-taking-action

I recently realized that I make a lot of excuses. There are excuses for not working out, for not eating healthy, for not cleaning the house, for not being more productive with work.

But I’m also realizing (slowly but surely) that these excuses are not bringing me any kind of results. Not working out certainly isn’t giving me a toned body; not eating healthy sure isn’t helping me drop some unwanted weight. You get the picture.

So, yes, I can say I’m not making as much money this month because the kids are home on summer break and I’m distracted but the reality is I’m allowing myself to become distracted and I haven’t taken steps to avoid this distraction.

Once again, the answer is slapping me in the face…

The Key to Success is TAKING ACTION!

I can daydream with the best of them but dreams don’t become reality without TAKING ACTION.

My dream home on the lake is going to remain a dream unless I TAKE ACTION to make the necessary money.

I can dream about my ultimate European vacation but we won’t be going anywhere unless I TAKE ACTION to raise those funds.

Do you see the common theme here? TAKING ACTION is a vital part of success and apparently I need to be reminded of this everyday or my mind falls too quickly into the realm of distraction.

Productivity Tips

If you’re fighting distractions and your productivity is lacking, do some soul-searching with me and figure out how you can combat this awful dilemma. Here are some things I’ve discovered for myself that I’m going to implement immediately.

1. Getting dressed before work. For me, working in my pj’s doesn’t work. It’s too casual and doesn’t put me in a work frame of mind. This is when I tend to browse social media and play computer games, which certainly isn’t making me money.

2. Making lists. My brain is busy trying to balance the family responsibilities and time schedule, so adding client work or projects to that mix just isn’t working for me.

Making a to-do list every night, listing out every current project for every client, helps me to visually see what has to get done within the next few days. It’s also nice to visually see things getting crossed off.

3. Working somewhere other than at home. I know, this kind of defeats the purpose of ‘working from home’ but sometimes you just gotta change things up! I’m going to frequent Panera the rest of the week (with my to-do list) and really pound out some work.

Even though I usually don’t like having background noise of any kind while working, there’s something about sitting there, knowing I don’t have a lot of time to goof off on the computer, that allows me to seriously focus on work.

I may even switch off between Panera and my public library, just for a change of pace (and to prevent me from eating too many bagels!)

4. Give yourself a challenge. I gave myself a blogging challenge for July, just to get me out of my rut and in the habit of writing every single day. While it’s difficult to find the time to write every single day, I figured it would get me back in the habit of producing content on a regular basis. The experts also say that after doing a task for 3 weeks, it becomes a new habit, so that can only help!

5. Keep your mind open to change. I’m learning that even the best laid plans might need some changing. Today I was supposed to start my day with client work but instead, I wrote this blog post. And I’m totally fine with this change because I felt the motivation to write.

Some days I’m raring to go by 8am while other days I can’t get moving until closer to lunch time. So long as the work gets done on time, feel free to change up your schedule. Whatever schedule works best for YOU is what you should follow.

Who’s with me on finding some productivity solutions this summer? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section…we can learn from each other!

How To Make More Money Freelance Writing From Carol Tice

Carol Tice Freelance WriterFreelance writer Carol Tice has been earning a full-time income from writing for almost twenty years—as a staff writer and during two separate stints freelancing. Today, she’s focused on publishing books and ebooks;  The Pocket Small Business Owner’s Guide to Starting Your Business on a Shoestring releases next month.

Carol also blogs at MakeaLivingWriting.com and runs the Freelance Writers Den, an online community for freelance writers.

I’ve been following Carol online for several years. She’s creative and tenacious; she’s transparent and forthcoming. Carol says on her blog homepage that she’s “on a mission to help writers grow their income.”

Her blog is full of tips on how to earn more money, and she has even posted a breakdown of her most successful year of freelance writing, in which she earned six figures. Carol is committed to helping freelance writers overcome the limiting belief that they can’t really make a full-time living. You’ll also find helpful ideas there for managing your business, including marketing and productivity tips.

Carol’s contributed to a number of high profile publications and websites, including Entrepreneur.com, Copyblogger, Allbusiness.com, and Seattle Times. Her blog was named one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers in Write to Done’s annual contest in both 2010 and 2012.

Carol Tice was kind enough to answer a couple of questions I submitted to her. I think you’ll find her insightful answers helpful in sharpening your business goals and increasing your earnings.

Market Your Business

Question: What ONE piece of advice would you give freelance writers who are looking to maximize the last six months of 2013 and increase their earnings over 2012?

Carol’s answer: Market your business! If you are doing marketing, choose one more strategy to pursue — send InMails to people who’ve viewed your profile on LinkedIn, or send marketing emails to promising companies, go to an in-person networking group, or tell your contact network you’d appreciate their referrals.

Take your marketing up a notch — or get started doing it. The luck fairy is not going to bring you great-paying freelance clients who have ongoing work for you. That happens when you target the quality clients you want and go after them proactively.

Leverage Your Skills

Question: What were the ONE or TWO pivotal decisions/actions you made with your freelance business that took you to the “next level” into full-time success?

Carol’s answer: I’ve been earning a full-time living at writing for a long time! But I’d say the thing all freelancers should be thinking about today to earn more is leverage.

What could you do that would move you beyond selling hours of your time? That’s the next level in freelance business, where it gets easier and where you can earn BIG money. Where you create a product or service and then your earnings can grow as more people buy or use it, without your having to do anything more.

For me, that was starting to publish ebooks, and creating my community for writers, Freelance Writers Den, which allows me to take one piece of advice or training and give hundreds of people access, all over the world. The earning potential of things like ebooks and self-publishing, and membership community sites, is huge.

I believe that one of the reasons Carol Tice is so respected among other freelance writers—and has a successful business helping freelancers—is because she’s in the trenches herself. She’s still sending queries, landing clients, and guest posting. Everyday she’s marketing her business with her goals in mind. One of her blog readers says this about Carol:

“Carol Tice makes me feel sane. Unlike those who make a living selling advice to writers about how to make a living as a writer, Carol actually writes for a living. Carol’s blog stands head and shoulders, hips and knees above the mind-bogglingly vast number of blogs targeting would-be writers out there.”– Nancy A. Locke. Locke Communications

Carol Tice is a credible authority in the freelance writing world. Follow her advice and example, and your own freelance writing career is sure to grow and benefit.

Four Signs Your Freelance Business Is Ready For A Coach

Coaching Works

Talk to most successful freelance business owners and you’ll find that, regardless of the type of work they do, they all have one thing in common.

At some point, they have all worked with a business coach.

Many of them will tell you that investing in that relationship was pivotal in moving their business forward.

Why is hiring a business coach so important to long-term growth as a freelancer?

I think the most important asset a coach brings to your business is objectivity. A good business coach is able to troubleshoot what’s holding you back, give you a plan for moving forward, and hold you accountable for applying your learning.

Are you ready to work with a business coach? Do any of these apply to you?

Take a look at these four signs that it’s time to hire a business coach:

1. A New Freelance Business

You are a brand-new freelancer and have no idea where to start.

I can think of no better way to get started as a freelancer than by partnering with a terrific business coach. I know I speak for numerous freelancers who would say they wished they had sought a coach sooner rather than later in building their businesses.

If you were opening a brick and mortar store, for example, you’d expect to pay thousands in start-up costs (storefront space, inventory, staff salaries, etc.). Consider coaching services as part of your start-up costs. It’s more than worth it to get started on the right foot, avoiding costly mistakes and learning lessons the hard way.

2. A Business That’s In The Red

Negative account balances, piles of debt, or stagnant cash flow indicate trouble for most freelancers. You got into this to make money, right?

A business coach can help you with all facets of business that may be affecting your bottom line: setting fees, finding high-paying and returning clients, budgeting, time management, organization, and productivity skills. A good business coach will help you discover and address what’s keeping you from profitability.

3. An Overwhelmed Freelancer

Your computer’s hard drive is full of eBooks and courses you’ve downloaded. Your schedule stays full with appointments for webinars on every topic that may possibly apply to your business. You’ve got multi-tasking down pat as you consume podcasts while you work out, cook dinner, and mow the lawn.

Enough! You’re on information overload, and how much of it is actually sinking in?

More importantly, how much of it are you actually using to grow your business?

Self-study courses, eBooks, webinars, and podcasts all have their places and can be beneficial to the freelancer. But if you are overwhelmed to the state of paralysis, what’s the point?

Working with a business coach (choose one of the creators of the training products with which you are already familiar) either one-on-one or in a small group setting is a much better solution. A coach-mentor relationship means the information is always applicable because it’s targeted to your specific needs and desired outcomes. And knowing your coach will follow-up means you’re more likely to implement what you learn.

4. A Freelance Business That’s Ready For A Change

Maybe you don’t know exactly what’s wrong with your business, but you feel that something’s out of whack. Working your business lately has become a chore and you’d like a greater sense of accomplishment in your work. It’s time for a change. But what kind and how?

A business coach can help to identify the one or two things that are holding you back. He or she can help you shift your focus, find a new audience, fine-tune your skills, or direct you in a rebrand. For veteran freelancers who are “stuck,” working with a business coach is the swift kick in the pants they often need to re-energize their business.

Personally speaking, investing in some coaching has brought great clarity to all facets of my freelance business: from the mechanics of work to the nuances of vision-casting (and all stops in between). I feel confident in saying that all freelancers can benefit from working with a business coach.

Have you worked with a business coach? What was your experience like and would you recommend it to others?

Freelancers: Wonder What You’re Missing?

I have a knack for finding money on sidewalks and in parking lots. In a year’s time, I’ll usually find about $50 because, I believe, I’m a pretty detail-oriented person.

But this “Whodunnit” video really stumped me. I couldn’t believe what I missed during the first viewing!

As a freelancer, I often wonder what I may be missing simply because I’m not looking for it. New business opportunities? New ideas for marketing or ways to save money?

Take a look and test your awareness. How observant are you?

Taking Those First Steps Toward Earning Passive Income

Freelance woman working at home with her laptop

Let me start by saying, this is one of those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ posts. Or consider it a ‘learn from my mistakes’ post.

However you want to view it, let me plead with you, from one service provider to another, DON’T WAIT to create multiple streams of income!

I’ve been a VA for 5 years now, making an OK income but happy to serve my small list of regular clients. Continuously over the last 5 years I have heard about passive income, making money in your sleep, and don’t trade dollars for hours.

This advice certainly made sense but I didn’t pay much attention to it. Or I’d add a few affiliate links to a blog post and watch as NO ONE clicked on those links.

My most-used excuse was, “Well, I’m focusing so much on my client work, I don’t possibly have time to create a product.”

Yeah, you’d think I was billing 60+ hours a week with that one but that certainly was NOT the case.

The Most Important Step: Taking Action

There are a million and one other reasons why I didn’t create any products sooner but the simple fact remains that I just never took the action necessary to get it done. I have lists and lists of ideas but what good do the lists do me if they sit in my desk drawer? Absolutely none. There is no fairy godmother waving her magic wand to give you a product or affiliate sales. YOU have to set the plan in motion and hire the right people if you want to see any results.

The killer…I could have quite a nice product line by now if I had only spent 15-30 minutes a DAY following through on my ideas. Instead, I sat trapped by my excuses and my belief that I didn’t know enough to make a product. I don’t want you falling into the same trap.

My Personal Case Study

I’m a member of Solo Masterminds and every year the Platinum members join together to run a 10 Day May Madness Sale. Basically, it’s offering a product or service for the crazy low price of $7 for 10 straight days. For 4 years now I’ve sat by, watching my friends making some extra money from the sale but never participated (or I have a vague recollection of participating one year but I must have offered VA time instead of a product).

This year was different. I was DETERMINED to follow through on a product that’s been at the back of my head for quite awhile and lo and behold, I had my product created in 7 days.

I wouldn’t recommend completing a product normally in 7 days because I was working a lot of hours and pushing off some client work in favor of working on my product but it IS doable.

And I was able to present Super Simple Audio as part of the May Madness sale.

Phew! Step 1 was completed…I made the deadline! Now, would anyone buy it?

The short answer…yes! I made 21 sales which helped me break even (I hired someone to make the cover graphic) and I even spent a little on my own May Madness purchases. So I made a little profit this time around. But the great thing is all of my future sales will be 100% PROFIT!

Was it completely passive income? Not really because all the Solo Mastermind members were busy promoting the sale to their lists and on social media BUT now that the majority of the work is done, I can theoretically promote Super Simple Audio for years without putting in the same number of hours I did at the beginning, getting it created.

No More Excuses for You!

So what’s holding you back from creating passive income streams? Some advice that I keep hearing is don’t wait until your product is ‘perfect’ before releasing it. You’re your own worst critic, so do you ever really think it will reach the level of perfection you envision? Probably not.

It’s totally OK to make changes to a product after it’s been released! Think of all the website themes or computer software that is released and then just a few months later they have a new release (think iPhone and the iPads). Certainly, you don’t want to produce garbage…there is definitely a level of quality you should reach for but don’t wait so long that you talk yourself out of doing it.

In fact, I listened to this advice myself. I needed a beginning and ending slide to my video tutorial but I was so close to deadline and was just so tired I just put up a very generic (and ugly!) slide with the basic information. No branding, no nothing except the title of the video and my URL.

Certainly not ideal but I let the buyers know right away that I’m making that change and will send them the new download link when it’s done. Will an ugly slide affect sales? Probably not. The information in the report and in the video tutorial certainly outweigh the slides in quality. But I easily could have let that be my reason for not submitting my deal for the sale.

And don’t wait 5 years like I did! Put in the work, see if it sells, then make revisions or start from scratch based on your experience. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

Fast Cash Generation Ideas for Freelancers

Being a freelance entrepreneur can really be a rewarding experience, but sometimes it’s hard to predict when your next gig is going to pay your bills for the month.   What’s standing between you and your next paycheck may be as simple as a good idea for quick cash.

Fast Cash Generation Ideas for Freelancers

I’ve pulled together a few ideas from around the internet to get your money flowing.

Make the Most of Your Current List

In this article from Freelance Switch, there are at least 10 ideas for making money fast.

The biggest theme here is to look at your current resources.   You could be sitting on untapped income where you already spend your time.  A few of my top pick ideas here were:

  • Ask for referrals from existing clients
  • Get in touch with former clients
  • Upsell existing clients
  • Raise your fees for new (and existing) clients

Put Your Expertise on Paper

Even if you’re not a freelance writer, you’ve got expert knowledge to share.  Why not put it on paper?  Love to Know Freelance Writing gives tips on how to make fast money writing.  Here are some takeaways to get you going.

  • Sell articles you write about your freelance topic of expertise
  • Help other freelancers finish their writing projects

Resource: Here’s a quick guide that shows you how to make money writing and selling small reports.

Offer Other Services

In this article from Crock Tock you’ll find some tips in general for new entrepreneurs, but again I found a couple of these to be great ways for freelancers to generate fast cash.

  • Create and sell a stand-alone product
  • Deliver coaching and/or consulting services
  • Create tutorials on how to do what you do

More Ways to Use What You Already Have

Red Lemon Club offers even more ideas for you to earn money.  There were a few ah-ha ideas I found particularly helpful.

  • Cut your expenses
  • Advertise affiliate products
  • Sell quick services on Fiverr.com
  • Sell ad space on your website

Also, this article from Moolanomy takes it to a whole different level offering tips I’ve never heard before like..

  • Earn money when you search (through sites like Swagbucks.com)
  • Lend money online and earn interest on the loans
  • Get cash rebates for any purchases you make online

These are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing…and cash coming in.  What else would you add to the list?

 

Why A Unique Brand Can Make or Break Your Freelancing Business

The golden arches.
The red bulls eye.
That blue bird.

I don’t have to tell you which companies these images represent, do I? You just know.

Unique Brand

While we easily think of multi-million dollar corporations when we think of successful branding, we need to apply those same ideas, principles, and techniques to the freelance business we operate from a home office.

Why Should You Care About Branding Your Business?

Regardless of the freelance business you run—whether it’s writing, design, VA work, or something else—there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other business owners doing the same thing. It’s a crazy and competitive business environment.

Creating and communicating your unique brand identity sets you and your business apart from the competition, according to LeapZone Strategies. Discovering your brand message is not hard, but it does require intentional examination of what makes you different.

When crafting your message, consider what problems you solve, how your business makes life better, and how your clients benefit from what you offer.

Once you’ve answered some crucial questions about your identity, it’s time to work on messaging. What makes up your brand? Typically, you’ll want to name your business, choose a tagline, and design a logo.

Name Your Business

As a freelance business owner, you’ll need to come up with a name for your business. You’ll want to choose either your personal name or create a business name.

Freelance Folder outlines the pros and cons of using either a personal name or a business name for a freelance business. Sometimes using your personal name can be perceived as less professional, but sticking with your own name doesn’t lock you into a certain type or kind of business for the long haul.

Deciding on a business name, though, can be a long and complicated process, as you’ll want to find something that’s memorable and creative that is not being used. Once you do come up with a business name, however, it is the perfect vehicle for succinctly communicating the uniqueness of your offerings.

Weigh all the pros and cons of naming your freelance business, but most importantly, don’t let the process stall the actual work you want to do.

Choose A Tagline

A tagline is a catchy slogan that becomes a recognizable part of your overall brand message: “It’s everywhere you want to be” (Visa) and “Good to the last drop” (Maxwell House Coffee) have become synonymous with the brands they represent.

CrowdSpring offers many ideas for writing a memorable tagline to set your business apart from the competition. Many effective tagline characteristics may seem obvious: it should be unique, simple and concise.

But the most important characteristic that’s often overlooked or misunderstood is that your business tagline should focus on your audience, not your company.

As you consider your tagline, go back to those questions you answered initially to discover your identity. How does your business help your audience? Use that information to create a memorable tagline.

Design A Logo

A powerful tool for distinguishing your business from its competitors, your logo can speak volumes about your business using just an image and a few words.

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time,” said Blaise Pascal. This quotation captures the difficulty in producing something creative in tightly-defined parameters, which includes logo design. When working with a single image that is scalable from thumbnail to billboard-size, a couple of fonts, and one or two colors, the task becomes quite challenging.

Creating a truly professional logo is best left up to—well, the professionals. Smashing Magazine outlines ten common logo design mistakes to watch out for. Make sure your freelance business logo is simple, timeless, and unique and that it isn’t a copycat—whether intentional or unintentional—version of an existing logo.

Evaluate Your Brand

No matter how young or old your business (and your brand), it’s a good idea to keep a critical eye on your brand message and identity, revising and fine-tuning as necessary.

The calendar gives us natural breaks in our business routine to look over our business. As you make New Year’s Resolutions, celebrate your business’ anniversary, or as winter melts away, take inventory.

Spring cleaning your brand, according to Entrepreneur magazine, involves re-evaluating your audience (including a shift in the clients whom you do or don’t serve) and updating your offerings (including which offerings to promote more or drop).

Intentional branding is crucial to creating a successful freelance business. Capitalize on what distinguishes you from the pack through creative, memorable, and timeless brand messaging, and keep an eye on your brand, ready to adjust it as necessary in order to maximize profits.

10 Great Project Management Tools for Freelancers

freelance-project-management

You’ve set up your freelance business and you’re ready to take on the world.  A few referrals are coming in here and there.  Then things start getting really busy.

How do you keep track of what projects are active, who’s paid what, deadlines, status reports, delegated tasks…yikes!

Things can get out of control pretty quickly for a freelancer without a solid project management tool.

Choosing the Right Tool

There are quite a few project management tools out there but some of them are better than others when it comes to freelancers.  Some of the best project management tools right for freelance work are those that target smaller, micro organizations – i.e. you, you + one or more team member(s).

Anything too complex can get overwhelming and the goal is to keep things simple so you can focus on getting the work done.

Ask Good Questions

How do you know which tool is right for you?  Here are a few starter questions to get you going:

  1. How many people will I need to collaborate with using the tool?
  2. What type of projects will I manage within the tool?  All of them, or a select group?
  3. What budget can I set aside monthly to pay for the tool?
  4. What do I prefer to work with most – text, visual charts, spreadsheets?
  5. How will the tool integrate with systems I already use – i.e. calendar, email, etc.?
  6. Does this tool work on my computer platform – i.e. Mac or Windows?
  7. As my business grows, will the tool expand with it or will I have to move all of my data somehow?  If I do have to move it, will it be easy or difficult?

10 Project Management Tools

I reached out through my social network to a group of freelancers to find their favorite picks.  We came up with this short list of 10 online project management tools along with brief descriptions:

  • Wrike - This tool uses a social platform to monitor your team progress across all projects. Wrike has an interactive dashboard, microblogging, real-time activity streams and instant email notifications with both free and paid subscriptions.  
  • LiquidPlanner - Professional online project management software with integrated features for scheduling, collaboration, time tracking, analysis and reporting.  Has easy to use, drag and drop tasks capability.
  • Dooster.net - This is a pretty neat task & project management app with a user-friendly interface if you’re not a real “techie”.  Has a dashboard where you can see everything that’s going on, organized by priority.
  • Basecamp - A very popular tool for freelancers, Basecamp probably has the most tenure of all the tools on this list. It shows tasks, stores files, tracks deadlines, and more. Recently, it’s become more mobile friendly which will be an advantage to freelancers who prefer to manage from an iOs or Android device.
  • WorkEtc - This one is a pretty comprehensive service and it may be a bit hefty for a freelancer without a team.  Check out the “all-in-one” concept they’ve put together – everything from tracking billable time and managing customer support to marketing and invoicing.
  • Daylite by MarketCircle - Note: this project management tool is for Mac, iPhone & iPad users. It lets you quickly review your phone calls, emails, notes, or meetings based on contacts in your database.
  • SUBERNOVA - Installed with the Adobe Air platform, SUBERNOVA (yes, that’s not me yelling; they usually spell it all in caps) lets you create invoices, schedule emails to clients, synchronize tasks with your calendar, and more.  Another one good for multiple platforms – desktop and mobile devices.
  • Insightly - One of my personal favorites, this tool integrates easily with Gmail and Google Apps.  Looks similar in some ways to Basecamp but a bit more user-friendly and simplistic on the surface.  Great for keeping up with customer contacts over email.
  • ThriveSolo - This is in beta currently so you need to sign up for approval to participate, however, the initial version has a very simple platform and covers the basic well for solo freelancers without a team, tracking things like time worked on a project, and budget for resources.
  • Apptivo - Good tool for small teams, this project management tool will track time and help you categorize what’s billable.  You can also set up invoices to your clients by integrating with PayPal, Authorize.net, and more.

As you’re considering the best project management tool for you, there will be other questions you’ll probably add to the starter list above.

Here’s a couple of suggestions: write out your list of “must-haves”, then make up a chart to compare your top 3 picks.  Once you have them, evaluate which ones best fit your needs using a trial (most of these will at least give you a 10 day or more trial version to see how it works for you).

The most important thing is to pick a project management tool that helps make your life easier.

Happy hunting!