Five tips to get a clear message across

How clear is your message on your website? Can people tell what you do? Can they work out what you are selling or offering? Or does your website leave them confused? Here are 5 tips to help you make sure that you get your message across.

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Know the message you want your clients/customers to get

So, what’s the message in this post? I definitely wanted readers to understand that they need to ensure that the right message is being put across. Are your blog posts the kind of message that your customers expect to see or do they not really relate to what you are trying to do? The worst thing you can do is to confuse the message with extra padding. Decide on a message and how you are going to get it out into the wide world. If you are trying to ensure that your message is heard, then keep it consistent throughout the next few posts. Try to avoid language that will obscure the message or detract from it.

For example:

“It is vitally important that during these days of the Coronavirus pandemic that you do not stop communicating with your customers. It is more important than ever that your customers hear from you.”

or

“Talking to your customers could be a good thing, what if they needed your services during this time of pandemic? If you keep in contact with them then they will know that they can count on you.”

I feel that the second  message is more woolly: it uses words like ‘could’ and ‘what if’ rather than the stronger language of the first one. It could be argued that both get the message across, but which is more likely to make you take action?

Know which customers you want to get the message

Do you know who your customers are? What kind of people they are, what they do and what factors make them buy from you? If you know this information, then crafting a message for them is so much simpler, because you can appeal to them directly. If you are looking to design websites for people, then you need to post case studies that show how you have helped people to achieve the website of their dreams. A photography website needs to be full of gorgeous images to showcase your talent and a writer website needs to show a variety of writing that reflects the kind of work that you are looking for.

Know the actions you want customers to take

And make sure you tell them. Don’t leave people guessing as to what you want them to do – tell them. Explain what you are offering, explain the T&Cs and make sure that they have all the information that they need to make a decision. You could set up a landing page just for those clients that you are targeting to make sure that they have access to the information in one place. Make it easy for them to find the information so they can act on it.

Keep it simple

Keep the message clear and simple.

Here is the offer.

It is worth this much.

It is currently priced at this much for a short time only

Buy before (date) to get this offer

Here is what you get

Here are the bonuses for buying by this date.

Finish with a clear call to action

Make sure that your customers are in no doubt as to the action that you want them to take next. The rest is up to them.

Are you looking to get a clear message across? What are the best ways to engage with your customers? Comment below to share with others.

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Writing a CV, online networking, avoiding scams and losing a freelance writing job – the best of the last 9 days of the 30 day blogging challenge

I had great fun taking part in the 30 day blogging challenge this year, writing about a number of different subjects and adding 30 posts to my blog. My new challenge is to carry on taking it forward and keeping it up to date. So in the spirit of this (after a few days off to rest and recover) here is a round-up of the best posts in the last 9 days.

daisies-in-the-shape-of-a-heart

Freelance CV help

Writing a freelance CV is an essential part of being a freelancer. Job opportunities often require you to send one off. You should never just drag up an old CV however, you need to tailor it to the requirements of the person description. My CVs have got me a lot of interest over the years, so here’s one way to write a good one.

Write what you know

That old adage should you write what you know, brought a lot of interest from the other bloggers in the blogging challenge group. It was a different way of looking at an old subject.

How to avoid scams

Avoiding scams should be on everyone’s radar, particularly in these days, when it can be difficult to know who is contacting you and whether their intentions are good or not. Always question everything.

Things to do during lockdown

Some great ideas to get involved in while you stay safe at home, were the subjects of two blog posts during these 9 days. I have already started taking a look at my old photos and enjoying the memories.

Lost a freelance job?

Lost a freelance writing job? Here is a personal post with my take on it. There are many people losing their jobs at the moment and it is important to take time for yourself, to grieve and to come up with a new plan. Since this post was written, I have been let go completely, thanks to the lockdown. I choose to look at this positively. There will be someone else who will appreciate my skills – I just have to find them.

Other bloggers who managed to finish

Shout outs go to Cindy Fox from Hearth at Home, Jacqueline Redmond, Your Story Works and Regina Byrne from Leadership & Management Coaching who also managed to finish their challenges.

Finally, I looked at my transformation through the 30 days of blog posts process. I have gained confidence and enjoyed interacting with other bloggers. I would definitely do it again and I would recommend that you do, too.

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How to look after yourself when you’ve lost a freelance writing job

I lost part of my freelance writing job recently when it was scaled back. My client hired a full-time social media person and so that part of the role was cut. What’s left is the blog posts, but that is less than half of what I was earning from this job and it doesn’t feel very secure. Here’s how I dealt with it.

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When the email arrived, it was difficult. I had put my rates up at the beginning of the year, so I was expecting something, but I didn’t know what. We had a contract in place, but it only allowed for two weeks’ notice, when I normally put an invoice in every four weeks. The email said that for two weeks things would stay the same, but in practice, the new person had already started and there were changes immediately which gave me less chance to earn.

Allow yourself to feel sad

Suppressing emotions doesn’t help. Being able to grieve will help you get over it sooner. Talk to an understanding friend (preferably another freelancer), listen to sad music and begin to heal.

Decide on a plan of action

For me, the immediate question was whether to continue with the smaller role I had been offered. I decided to continue with it for now, but I can no longer count on it. My client does not pay that well. I renegotiated my blog rate, but that probably means that she may still give me another 2 weeks’ notice and finish it. We have re-signed another contract. I have worked for her a long time – since 2013.

Reach out to previous clients

I have started reaching out to previous clients again and looking for other jobs. I have joined freelance writer groups, looking for tips and leads. Unfortunately, since this happened, the world has changed and there are lots of freelancers looking to replace their income, so this may not be easy.

Add new skills

I am looking out for new courses to improve my skills. SEO Moz are offering free courses until the end of May, so definitely worth checking out. I will also pick up my Google digital garage courses and take some more of those.

Reach out to new clients

I have updated my Linked-In profile and am trying to post more on there. I have declared that I am open for business. All my social media is being updated far more regularly. I am trying online networking and I am looking forward to finding some new clients.

Look at the past with clarity

I can see that having worked with the same client for so long, that things had got stale. Also she would never use Facebook ads as she felt they had overcharged her. The new person in the office has been able to boost her posts, though, so they have done better. Perhaps having someone onsite has given her more confidence.

Take the 30 day blogging challenge

In order to get my (long neglected) website up to speed, I have taken on this challenge. It has reminded me of much I had forgotten and given me a host of new ideas. I would recommend it to anyone. Take it and see.

Have you lost your freelance writing job or client recently? How are you dealing with it? Comment below.

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How to connect with bloggers in your niche

First of all, I want to apologise for using the word, ‘niche’ in a heading! Getting a bit jargon-y there!  A niche is simply a narrowed-down subject that you like to blog about. The narrower the better if you really want to know your subject well.

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I have just read the blogging challenge email where Sarah Arrow encourages us to connect with bloggers who do the same sort of thing that we do and comment on their blogs, helping their visibility and ours. I already knew this, but I had forgotten it. Long ago, before Linked-In and Pinterest came along, the first thing that came up when I searched my name on Google, would be comments that I had made on blogs. I just checked today and on page 4 my name comes up linked to comments that I have previously made on blogs – the oldest of which was in 2010 when I was just starting out!

So comments on blogs can hang around for a long time, especially on high-ranking blogs. It is worth doing as long as you are happy with your comments.

I love finding bloggers to connect with in the things that I do. But how can you find people to connect with? And when you do, how do you connect?

Ask a question

If you have any burning questions, then ask them on Google and quite often bloggers who have answered those questions will come back. You can then check out their websites and look around. You may also want to see how well they answer the question as it will help you to see what their knowledge and experience is like.

Search hashtags

You can use hashtags to search on Twitter and Instagram, and even Facebook as hashtags are used there. Look for keywords that link to what you do and see what links the hashtags bring back. Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers and you can get to know people through hashtag hours as quite often the same people show up to chat.

Search keywords

Intentionally searching for people starts with keywords. The bloggers that come back are worth checking out. Again, look around the website and see what kind of information they offer. They may offer free ebooks for signing up to their mailing list or courses. I have to say that I am normally turned off by hyper-spammy websites – the kind where an advertising pop-up follows you down the page like a dog! I normally close those straight away and never go back! However occasionally you find an amazing website that’s full of useful information and those are worth bookmarking.

Facebook groups

Finding and joining Facebook groups that link to what you do is a great way to connect with other people. They can also be the most helpful in terms of giving advice and help to other people. Not all groups are public and you may need to apply to join and even answer a question or two. Of course you could start your own Facebook group too.

Blogging Challenge

Doing the 30 day blogging challenge with Sarah & Kevin Arrow is one of the best ways I know to find some like-minded people and connect with them. You are not necessarily writing about the same things, but that means you get to learn more and enjoy meeting people online. You also get to read some blogs that you might otherwise not have read. 

Other Challenges

Other blogs offer other challenges which can be just as useful. It’s worth searching out challenges to take once in a while. Pushing ourselves brings growth and change.

How to Connect

When you find a blogger that you like, how should you connect with them?

You can try a number of things:

Interview them (I interviewed Sarah Arrow for my blog once) and write up as a blog post

Comment on their blog post (if allowed)

Bookmark the website and come back to it

Even better subscribe to their feed and their email list

Follow on Twitter

Take their challenge

Join their Facebook group

Just one word of warning: try the things that seem right to you, but don’t do it all at once. You’re trying to make friends, not scare them off!

How do you get to know other bloggers online? Comment below and let me know.

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How to write a freelance Curriculum Vitae or CV

This post was first published in 2017 as Tips for Creating a Freelance Curriculum Vitae. It has been updated with new information.

When you begin applying for jobs as a freelancer, many organisations ask you to send a CV. This article will show you how to write an amazing CV that will help you to get the job.

Arnold Schwarznegger James Bond CV

A good CV will show a potential client your previous experience and where it ties in with the skills that they are looking for. It will show your skills and abilities and more importantly your portfolio of work experience. It will help you get the job. Each CV is individual to each person, but there are some things that should always be there.

Personal Details

Personal details – name, address, email, phone number where you can be contacted, and social media handles including Linked-In. You want to be contactable and these details need to be easy to find. It is a good idea to have separate social media accounts for private and business use.

Freelance CV Header

This CV example is a template from my word processor. You may find similar ones on the one that you use. I used this template to write mine.

The profile or personal statement is a summary of the skills you have learned from the work that you are doing. This should explain to the client the kind of work that you have been doing. It is possible to adjust your statement according to the work that you are applying for, just highlight the different skills according to the job description.

For example:

“Professional, freelance copywriter, who works with creativity and integrity, based in – shire, UK. She has experience creating content for a number of companies, to communicate clearly and effectively through blog posts, web articles, mobile web content and SEO articles, sales letters, landing pages, newsletters and social media, including Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. She has written regular blog posts on health and mental health stories, curates news stories and promotes new products and special offers. She is able to use a content management system to update product descriptions and add new products and images.”

or

“John Smith is a freelance copywriter, based in – shire, UK. He has been working as a freelance since 2010, and during that time, he has worked with a number of companies, to communicate clearly and effectively through blog posts, articles, web content, mobile web content, SEO articles and content, sales letters, landing pages, newsletters and social media including Twitter and Facebook posts.

John has written on a wide range of topics including marble and granite products, car mats, product descriptions, sports clothing, sports massage, serviced office space, travel, photography, the English language, Jane Austen and the Northern Lights.

John has been managing a social media account, for one of his clients, for the past 3 years. In the first two years, he increased their Twitter followers from around 500 to 2500, through organic posts and conversations. John writes regular blog posts on medical studies, curates news stories and promotes new products and special offers. John has also used the content management system to update product descriptions and add new products and photos.”

The first example does not use names at all, just a description,  the second example uses a name but in the third person. It is a matter of choice which you prefer. The first example has got me 3 or 4 interviews so far.

Key Skills

Something that I have introduced into my curriculum vitae is a list of key skills. These can change according to the job that you are looking at and the person description. More desirable skills for the role should be near the top.

Next comes the list of freelance work that you have undertaken. There should be a headline summarising the work, followed by a brief summary and a link to the work if there is one. Work should be in chronological order, beginning with the most recent. If there is anything utterly irrelevant then discard it. I am unusual in that I have a paid part-time job as well as working freelance, but I tend to include it as it shows I can work as part of a team as well as independently.

My CV then includes my education. This can include relevant courses or certificates that you have taken. You certainly don’t need to list out every single exam you have ever taken, but it is worth putting in the top qualification that you have got, again, particularly if it is relevant.

Testamonials

It is always worth asking former clients for testimonials and including them on a CV can look great. If clients have left a testimonial on a website for you, you can link to it. Always attribute quotes and I like to leave them more or less as they are. If there were a glaring error, I would ask permission to change it.

References

You should include a couple of references on your CV as you would on an application form. Check with the people you put down first to check that it is ok to offer their details. If you do not want them contacted before an interview, then say so.

The final thing is to keep your curriculum vitae to only 2 sides of A4 and to save it as a PDF. That way a potential client is not wading through reams and reams of writing. It is why it is important to choose the most relevant pieces of work to include in a CV. It is also why it is possible to adjust your curriculum vitae to reflect the work that you are applying for.

What do you include in your CV? Has it got you work? How often do you update it? Leave a comment below.

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Infographics, Coronavirus and Social Media – the best of the last 9 days’ blogs

It’s been a non-stop whirlwind of opinions, infographics and social media during the last 9 days. I’ve written blog posts on all kinds of topics and there have been lots out in the world to enjoy too. So to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out), here are the best blogs you (nearly) missed!

Heart of coloured pencils - love of writing

Comparing new business expectations to reality was a blog post about the wake up call that new business owners can sometimes get. Alongside the great expectations are tips to help you deal with the reality. Sometimes you need to take a step back and understand how far you have come.

Regina Byrne Coaching wrote a beautiful blog post on how to appreciate your team or colleagues. I really enjoyed it.

Infographic Alert!

Creating an infographic and posting it to Pinterest was a really fun thing to do. I have used Canva for several different things now and I am more and more impressed with it. I could not get my graphic to paste successfully to my website and have it readable. Sarah Arrow’s suggestion of 10 infographics in 10 days is definitely on my ‘To Do’ list!

During this time, I ended up taking a break from blogging, thanks to life. My post,  Blogs Interrupted has been the most noticed blog post so far. Sometimes life just happens and we are all having to adjust to new experiences at the moment.

We all deal with the way life is in different ways. I have loved Vaishakhi’s Beads of Hope series, where you can make a garland of beads of hope by posting beautiful things for others to enjoy.

Health Writer

I also chose to showcase my health writing skills when I wrote about 10 facts that China shared with the world, regarding their experiences of Coronavirus. It was a fascinating study, written from the Chinese point of view and I felt that some of the points would be worth sharing with a wider audience. I also shared my 10 tips to working from home for those who are used to working in an office. I really should share this with my husband, as I have been moved from my usual study so he can have his extra monitor in there! With my son home from school and my daughter home from university, we have all had to learn to carve out a bit of work space for ourselves.

Finally, if you want to see what I look like, I recorded a short children’s talk for my baptist church for last Sunday. It got a great response!

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10 tips to working from home when you’re used to being in the office

Many people are finding themselves working from home for the first time in a long time, or even ever! Adjusting to this situation, which has occurred very quickly could take some work. The children may be home from school and your partner may also be around more. There could be a lot of distractions, but you’ve still got to get work done. As someone who has been working from home for a while, here are some tips to being able to effectively work from home.

Laptop, coffee and cake on a duvet work from home

Set up a workstation. This may seem simple – but you need a chair that you can sit in comfortably, a good internet connection and a big enough screen so that you can see your work. It is best if you can find a space where no one else is, so that you can take telephone calls and conference calls.

You may also need to find a different space so that everyone can work. It is still best to supervise children while they use the internet. They should have work set for them, but it won’t take up the whole day.

Stick to Work Hours

Decide on your work hours. These do not have to be the same as your normal hours, as long as you can fit your work in. You need to take work calls into account, but allow yourself time to get away from the keyboard in the middle of the day.

Stick to your work hours. Once you start answering emails at 10pm at night, then there’s no going back! Well, there is, but it’s best not to start.

Make time for your loved ones too. Make sure you have time to connect with them and spend time with them. Equally, don’t let go of your work friends. Find some time together to chat or you could spend time in a team chatroom over lunch.

Ignore the Housework

Ignore the housework that is calling to you. Do it at the time that you normally would.

Make time for exercise. This might be pedalling an exercise bike, following a YouTube exercise video or going out for a walk in isolation. You really need at least 15-30 minutes of exercise every day.

Make time to connect and spend time with the children if you have any. If your children have just finished their school term, it could be a very strange and confusing time. Encourage them to get their school work done, but also to have down time and be more creative.

Take time away from the Screen

Give yourself some time away from the screen. Dig out the board games or even have a conversation so that you’re not constantly staring at a brightly lit screen. Get out in the garden if you have one or take a socially distanced walk.

Take advantage of the shows and concerts being live-streamed at the moment. Look for things that you would enjoy and make time to watch them.

Take time to be creative yourself and do something you enjoy.

Have you got any tips for someone working from home for the first time? Share them below.

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Blogs Interrupted

UK March 2020

Day 14 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Things have gone quiet round here. I’m still hoping to publish 30 blogs, but not in 30 days. The world seems to have gone mad: university students are being sent home, IT people are being told to work from home, schools are shutting and everyone is being told to stay home. I can’t think of anything to compare it to in my lifetime and I don’t think I will again.

The good news is that we have the internet to keep us sane. One of the consequences of the direction of non-essential gatherings is that churches are unable to meet. I was about to do an all-age service on Sunday. You know when I chickened out of doing a vlog post? Looks like I will be doing one after all – for my church!

So how do you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs?

Find the positive.

Thankfully, my children are old enough not to need supervision, although my son might if he is to do the work that the school sets. My daughter, the university student is coming home at the weekend and may not pay the third instalment of her accommodation. But what if your child is of the age where they are meant to be doing GCSEs? Or your children are too young to be able to be left?  Hopefully solutions can be found. Everyone’s situation is different and we will all have to find our own solutions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people – everyone has got a similar problem.

Allow yourself to be overwhelmed

I know, it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to feel the emotions in order to get past them. Then you can pick yourself up and find a way through.

Social distancing, not social isolation

These two things are very different. We need social distancing – to stay 1-2m apart to prevent the coronavirus spreading. In China, there were lots of clusters where family members from the same household all caught it. Finding ways to be apart while being together is going to be a crucial part of this time. No one wants to be socially isolated. Those online communities are going to matter more than ever.

Money matters

If this time is going to leave you financially worse off, then reach out to the people who can help sooner rather than later. Contact your bank, talk to the people you owe money too and make sure you take full advantage of any help the Government is offering, even if it is a loan. Businesses that were profitable before this virus will be profitable again after it. Take all the help you can get and make sure that you have money coming in.

Mental health matters

Do look after yourself and your mental health. Stay healthy, get some exercise, eat your 5-a-day fresh fruit and vegetables. Find some hobbies to do that can help you – knitting and crochet, painting or even journalling. There are lots of companies about to offer deliveries online – take advantage.

How do you plan to sit out the current situation in the UK or where you are? Keep in touch via the comments below.

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Secrets of Stronger Fiction – more realistic bad guy/girl

Please note there are some spoilers in this blog post in the interest of creating stronger fiction.

Many adult stories do not contain a definitive bad guy.girl. In many children’s stories you will find a baddie character – someone who sees it as their life goal to thwart the main character and make their life difficult. Sometimes that evil character is just out-and-out bad, but sometimes, they are more morally ambiguous. This makes for stronger fiction.

Harry Potter series

For example, in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, the evil-doers are evident from the start. Even the reluctance to name him (he-who-should-not-be-named) points to the fact that Voldemort is not someone that you would like to be best friends with. Some of the other characters who support him are not so clear cut (and some are!). Draco Malfoy, for example, hates Harry with a loathing and the feeling is mutual. Draco tries to kill Dumbledore and this reinforces that he is evil. However at the end of the books, Draco is rather a pathetic figure who has been damaged by the evil that he has done. Dorothy Umbridge, however is definitely evil, but Professor Snape is eventually revealed to have been working for the good forces, for all he disliked Harry.

Of all the characters in Harry Potter that appear to be evil, Snape is the most interesting. At the start he is always there to catch Harry out, his allegiance as head of the house of Slytherin gives him a vested interest in taking points off Harry and therefore Gryffindor, his rival. But as more of Snape’s story is known: his closeness to Harry’s mother Lily at one point and how he felt when Janes and Lily got together gives the reader a sympathy for him by the time of his last scene.

Matilda

The best stories have a mix of characters including those who are borderline. Matilda by Roald Dahl has a very definite bad gal in Miss Trunchbull, the angry headmistress who hates children. Miss Trunchbull is tall and broad and uses her size to intimidate both the children and teachers. Everyone that is except for Matilda. Matilda is able to use her new powers to scare Miss Trunchbull and protect her friends. But while the headteacher is a very obvious evil person, less so are Matilda’s parents. These two people are self-centred and not above indulging in criminal activity. They don’t seem to care very much for their daughter and even less for her schooling. They are not as vicious as Miss Trunchbull, but because they ignore Matilda instead of chucking her in the chokey, does that make them any better?

Matilda knows her parents’ failings and they do not seem to affect her, but neglect could be a very serious thing for her. Thankfully she has met Miss Honey who is prepared to take her on and love her.

Artemis Fowl

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer introduces a character who self-identifies as a criminal mastermind, or at the very least an anti-hero. He aims to steal to further his own ends, but finds himself in trouble when stealing from fairies, more specifically a police fairy known as Holly Short. Artemis may have started out as evil (how can you help it after being named Artemis), but he fairly quickly finds himself being forced to do the right thing. Throughout the series of books, he finds himself involved in a number of scary escapades, but usually on the right side of the fairy police. Incidentally, the books introduce Opal Koboi, a narcissistic pixie who is capable of far more evil actions than Artemis, himself.

Which characters are your favourite bad guys/gals and why?

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Is there ever a time when a freelancer should work for free?

I came across a job website tonight and read their information on becoming a freelancer. I was shocked to see that they advocated taking a first job and doing the work for free. I am a firm believer that at no point should a freelancer ever work for free. Nor do I believe that they should sell their skills cheaply.

When you are just starting out, it is tempting to take any offer of work that is going, so that you can add to your portfolio and have something to show other prospective clients, but I still think that you should expect to charge for your work.

There is a process of thought that suggests that early-stage freelancers should take work in order to prove themselves. They should take low-paying or free work until they can work themselves up to a more reasonable level of compensation. There are several reasons why this is unacceptable:

Freelancers have to pay bills like everyone else

Taking low-paying work can make you feel as though it is all you are good for

You have to have a certain level of competency to even consider going freelance. Why should you sell it cheaply?

I’m a start-up, will you work for free?

Then there are the people who advertise jobs who usually suggest that as they are a start-up, they cannot currently afford to pay someone to do the work. They usually dangle the offer of more, paid work down the line. But there are some problems with that:

If they can’t afford to pay someone, then why are they starting up a business? Surely if they have no money for it, it will be doomed to fail.

The promised paid-for work rarely materialises or when it does, the pay is not worth the effort

Consider this:

The time that you spend working on something for free, is time that you can never get back.

Does that make it more valuable?

Or

The time that you have offered for free, could be used to market yourself to find a paying customer

Or

Will the product that you have created for free be used to bring this client money?

Then you deserve some compensation for it.

When you start up as a freelancer, it is advisable to work out how many billable hours you can find for your job. That is, the amount of time that you have available to work for clients. Once you have that number, you can use it to do a number of things.

You will need to set aside some time to market your business. This includes writing for your own website, creating products for your own website and running your own social media (without getting sidetracked on Facebook).

You will need some time to do the administration of your business – invoicing and chasing payments.

You will need time for clients.

If you give up some of your time for free, then you are taking some time away from your business. Even if you are a brand new freelancer, you have chosen this path because you believe that you are good at what you do and that you can bring some skills to the table. Your skills deserve a decent reward.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Have you ever worked for free? If so, then do comment below. Did more work materialise? Do you agree with me that freelancers should not work for free? Please comment below.

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