For all the freelancers reading this article right now, there are some steps to success you can take to create a profitable freelance company for yourself.
Being a freelancer comes with many perks. You get to enjoy the freedom of working from home all while setting your own schedule. You also get to pick your own clients and choose your desired rate of pay. Freelancing is a beautiful thing, especially when you’re the go-to expert in your industry.
While some freelancers can expect a feast or famine type of business model – where you’re making great money one month and not so great the next – there are certain tasks you should take upon yourself to ensure your success each month.
If you want to build your freelance business, these are the 5 commandments you should be focused on:
1. Acquire Testimonials After Every Job
What’s your most important job? It’s the one where your last customer was so happy they told people about you. Knowing this, each job should be equally important in your business. When you perform outstanding work for a client, don’t be shy, ask for a testimonial.
Have a page set up on your website where they can tell the world how great you are. If you don’t have a page specifically set up for this, you can grab these testimonials in different ways.
You already know testimonials are an important aspect of your business. However, what you may not know is how powerful word of mouth is for your company. A study done in 2014 revealed an astounding 75% of freelance jobs comes from word of mouth.
Your client has colleagues and friends they can share your greatness with. Every successful freelancer will glean these testimonials from their clients and make sure to refer their friends and co-workers back to their business.
2. Be Available As Much As Possible
You want to get the jobs you want? Be there when they come available. Aside from word of mouth and grabbing jobs from the people you know, you can also create expertise about yourself in freelance platforms like Upwork, oDesk, Freelancer, and others like this.
There are always places to go to find jobs online. Not only should you be available for more work to fill your time with, you should also remember the clients you still have and make yourself available for their needs as well. It’s important to keep your current clients happy and when they need you for a rush job, make sure you are there for them.
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” – Michael LeBoeuf
3. Be a Communication Machine
Not only should you make yourself available, you should also make yourself accessible. It’s no fun for your clients to have to track you down in order to get an update or ask for more work to be done.
Nathan Hirsch, co-founder and CEO of the FreeeUp freelancer hiring marketplace, says one of the reasons most freelancers lose jobs is because the freelancer was nowhere to be found. It’s important to remember to share every contact detail you have with your clients so you both can work well together.
Successful freelancers have these tools in their portfolio:
With a mix of communication tools at your disposal, even if you’re away from your desk, your client should still be able to get your attention within the span of 30 minutes or less.
4. Extend Your Expertise Through Others
While most freelancers are happy with keeping busy with the clients they have, freelancers who want to build their businesses will take advantage of every talent they come across.
For example, you may be an expert in the social marketing industry, but you keep getting stray clients from the search engine optimization industry. Just because you don’t have the expertise to complete the job doesn’t mean you have to send them away since you can use other freelancers. This is where contracting work comes into play and it can help your overall reach in your business.
Over time, you will come into contact with other freelancers who have multiple talents you do not have yourself. When a job comes your way in which you have no experience in, reach out to someone who does and split the profits.
While this is a whole different ball game for freelancers to pursue, it can become very lucrative if you understand what to do. First, build a community of freelance experts. You can do this easily by setting up a Facebook group. I personally set up a freelance writing group on Facebook and, in the span of 2 months, have added 3,000+ new writers into the space. Here we discuss best strategies, recommend our friends for freelance jobs, and make each other better through discussion.
5. Stay On Track With Taxes
I know this isn’t something you want to think about at the moment, but in April it will come up again. It’s relevant to have something in place to help you regulate the money which you have acquired over the past year with your freelance business.
99designs explains how the government will be taking a percentage of your income out in taxes. In order to prepare for this, they have wisely suggested putting back your governmental portion each month in a savings.
You have to run your freelance operations like a business. While taking care of taxes and fees aren’t something you dream of doing, it is something you need to adjust for because the time will come to pay the piper and you must be prepared.
Take some time and research other tax preparations for freelancers so you won’t be caught with any surprises at the end of the year. In fact, this part plays a huge role in building your freelance company. You want to be able to have a working budget after the government takes their part.
Are You Ready?
In order to create a profitable freelance business you need to be able to stand on the foundational principles of those freelancers who have gone before you and succeeded. This, and your own creativity and imagination can push you towards your goals of success. Don’t fall trap to the “always famine” idea of a freelancer by using these 5 commandments to nurture your business model.
What are some ways you have built your business? Let us know by commenting below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com
5 Soft Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs to Succeed
There are countless components that go into building a successful company, but soft skills act as the fundamental building blocks of a functioning business. Hard skills are considered to be job-specific, whereas soft skills are interpersonal skills, like listening and communication.
Nearly 93% of employers said that soft skills are an “essential” or “very important” factor in hiring decisions. With the right blend of hard and soft skills, an entrepreneur is capable of great things.
Here are five soft skills that can help entrepreneurs scale their growth and lead successful ventures:
A successful company starts from individual confidence. In order to motivate and inspire others, an entrepreneur must find reassurance in themselves. Other businesses and consumers will believe in your company if you consistently believe in yourself.
Being confident also means becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable— taking risks will expand your business and place you above competitors. As an entrepreneur, and leader, it’s crucial that you not only possess confidence, but exhibit it throughout every step of your business ventures.
It is vital that an entrepreneur have a clear insight into their personality, especially their strengths, weaknesses, thoughts,and emotions.
When an entrepreneur is self-aware, it can lead them to beneficial partnerships and agreements. Without good self-awareness, leaders become easily persuaded and spineless. Self-awareness also includes control. Becoming overly emotional, for example, can lead to detrimental impulsive decision making.
“Self awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.” – Debbie Ford
From the day we begin talking, the ability to work well with others is pivotal to any project. As an entrepreneur, it is important to recognize and understand your own responsibilities. To do this, you must identify your business culture and have tools on hand to manage mutually dependent relationships.
Active listening inspires collaboration within teams and creates learning opportunities. Without open collaboration or sharing and discussing information, the success of your business is limited.
4. Time Management
Time is the greatest equalizer. No matter who you are or what you do, we all have the exact same amount of time in the day. Successful management of that time separates the great entrepreneurs from the bad ones.
Entrepreneurs have many responsibilities; they are often jumping between tasks, hopping on calls, and attending events. They also tend to make every decision within the business.
It is crucial for business owners to find an organization system that works for their company and their goals. Creating a long term road map of company ambitions is an excellent way to distinguish high versus low priority initiatives. Entrepreneurs should create prioritization systems that employees can follow each month, ensuring business targets are met.
“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!” – Tony Robbins
Throughout your entrepreneurial journey, unexpected hurdles and setbacks are inevitable. The process of starting a business will not be perfect. What matters most is how you progress when the outlook seems bleak. Your ability to stay tough and weather the storm speaks volumes to your leadership— and will lead to a huge payout at the end of the day.
Maintaining entrepreneurial resilience throughout rocky times will empower your employees while simultaneously building your credibility. Resilience will also inform potential clients and customers that you are willing to fight through thick and thin.
Soft skills are the backbone of every successful entrepreneur. While hard skills like financing and marketing are crucial to conducting business, soft skills provide the essential groundwork. Developing these soft skills will come with time, mindfulness, and an eagerness to grow. Take the initiative to prioritize these skills in yourself. Once you’ve done that, you can then cultivate those same qualities in your business.
Do you think soft skills tend to be more important than hard skills in today’s business world? Share your thoughts with us below!
The 7 Successful Habits of Entrepreneurs
A while ago, I wrote an article on the 51 mistakes that can sabotage your business. However, that was one piece of the puzzle. You have to run your business well to be a successful entrepreneur, but, what’s more important is that you run yourself so well that your business follows suit. In order to do that, you need some good habits that can seriously boost your chances of success.
Here are the 7 must have habits that most successful entrepreneurs have:
1. Mindfully Meditate Everyday for At least 10 Minutes
Tim Ferris, who has interviewed thousands of world-class performers and entrepreneurs, says that the most common practice of all world-class performers is mindfulness meditation. There are different types of meditation, and each serves its own function.
However, mindfulness meditation is meant for controlling your mind so as to be able to focus more intensely on the task at hand. Higher focus equals higher productivity and becoming more effective at whatever you do.
Working in a distracted state leads to substandard work and also takes up more time. If you want to be able to get in the zone like most top-notch entrepreneurs, you need to mindfully meditate.
Now, there are some caveats you need to be aware of before you begin:
- Like medicine, mindfulness meditation has a minimum effective dose and that minimum is 10 continuous days for at least 10 minutes each day.
- Practice guided meditation before you try meditating on your own.
2. Read a Lot
Warren Buffett was once asked what the secret behind his wealth was. He pointed to a stack of books and said the secret was to read 500 pages like that everyday. Mark Cuban is also a voracious reader and spends almost 3 hours everyday reading in spite of being busy with his businesses. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg also read a book every week.
Now, I am not telling you to read so much everyday but at least make an effort to finish 2 books every month. This is a very common habit among the top-notch entrepreneurs and as Warren says, “knowledge builds up like compound interest.”
Also try not to read on any digital medium except that of Kindle. In spite of it being convenient to read on your phone or tab or laptop, these devices tend to distract us with their notifications and push us to other procrastinating habits.
“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” – Roald Dahl
3. Keep the Phone Away, aka take a Digital Detox EVERYDAY
With multi-national companies all vying for our attention, we need to learn to use our phones less everyday. While it can be extremely tempting to open your phone while you are waiting in line or are taking an Uber ride, you should resist and embrace the boredom. This has two effects:
- It teaches you to sit through boring and monotonous tasks for longer periods of time and not get pulled away at the tiniest amount of distraction.
- It builds up your will-power and your discipline.
I see a lot of entrepreneurs try to do this and even successfully do this but they don’t build it into a habit. They do it once a week or once a month and think it will have a beneficial effect on their lives. Sadly, just like eating your vegetables once a week is a very stupid idea if you want to live a healthy life, taking a digital detox occasionally is useless.
4. Dump Coffee for Tea
Most Americans are heavy coffee consumers and can’t live their lives without coffee. But wait …The main ingredient behind coffee is caffeine which is a natural stimulant. If you take a stimulant regularly, your body adapts to the stimulant and you fail to get the benefits of coffee such as greater energy and focus which other non-regular drinkers get.
On the contrary, tea’s natural stimulant relaxes your body and enables you to put in more hours of work without the “crash” effect that coffee drinkers face. If you are up to the suggestion of making tea a part of your daily habits, I suggest you try out green tea which has 15% more caffeine than a cup of coffee. It also possesses l-theanine, which helps the consumer put in a greater state of focused awareness into his/her work.
But if you are a newbie tea drinker and can’t stand the taste of coffee (I don’t know how that’s possible though☹), try out flavored tea.
5. Sleep Around 8 Hours Daily
I think the most damaging piece of advice out there is sleep less and do more work. If you do that, all that’s going to happen is that you are going to wake up the next day feeling drowsy. The net result is that your productivity will suffer.
Also, the notion of early to bed and early to rise is not true as your biological clock may be differently tuned than that of others and your biological prime time may be late at night. However, don’t be too late to sleep as that hinders the DNA repair and as a side-effect your mental fatigue remains.
If you can’t get to sleep early, try to not use your phone or watch the TV or any sort of screen whatsoever, as the blue light can slow down your natural sleep cycle.
“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” – John Steinbeck
6. Take Cold Showers
You know what troubles most entrepreneurs? They’re good at planning yet it’s the execution part where almost all of them fall flat. It’s because the execution of ideas throws the harsh realities of the business world onto the face of the entrepreneurs, and they are forced to reconsider if they can actually ever succeed.
It is here that the winners get separated from the losers. And guess what separates them? Willpower. I have the best tactic to help you build it and it’s so simple too! Take cold showers early in the morning or late at night, when it is already chilled outside. If you live in a place that is hot, then this tactic may not have the intended effect on you.
However, try taking cold-showers in the winter. You will see that your brain makes all sorts of excuses so as to not go under the chilling water and if you succeed in pushing your brain to do the work, you will have succeeded. You are then, the master of your mind and not the other way around.
7. Plan and Review Daily
If you want to live a truly productive life and get things done instead of having a mounting pile of to-dos, you need to plan ahead. You need to divide your daily schedule into blocks of time and dedicate tasks to each block.
Parkinson’s Law states that the work we need to do stretches into the time we give ourselves to finish it. Therefore, if you need to get work done and don’t give yourself any time-limit or deadline, you will find your work stretching for enormous amounts of time and eating into the time reserved for other tasks.
However, when you first start planning, you will find most of your plans are utterly useless as most tasks will stretch far beyond the time you have allotted for them. This is where the second part comes along – which is to review the plans and reschedule them.
However, there is a particular style of reviewing and this is how you can go about it. First, you need to make a plan of what you intend to complete in a week and what you intend to complete in a day. Then, before going to bed every night, open your calendar and make a note regarding what you failed to complete today and how you will accommodate them into your weekly goals. This should be done before going to bed daily.
Now, it’s your turn. Share this post and spread the word. What’s the most important habit according to you? Do you have any such habits that you use? Let me know in the comments!
Build Your Business One Brick at a Time
A good friend and business associate once approached us asking for business advice. “I have $25,000,” he said. “How do I turn that into $50,000? Actually—wait, how do I turn one million into two million in one year?”
We looked at each other, and then we looked back at him and said “You don’t take a million and turn it into two million. It’s not that easy. There are no shortcuts in life, and there are no shortcuts in business.” We recommended he do things the old-fashioned way.
He understood—and we understood—that, of course, some people do double their money in the blink of an eye. It’s not impossible, but it’s incredibly risky. And it’s also not what we are about. We’re not promoting the Bernie Madoff model of Ponzi and phony, get-rich-quick deals; we all know how well that worked out in the end. Businesses have to have a real economic model that is built one brick at a time.
Start, Build, Sell
Growing your business is an incremental process: you start, you build, and you sell. You build more, you sell more. If you have a viable product or service that customers want, they’ll come back to you again and again. They’ll also tell their friends.
Positive word of mouth is as important as the product itself, because it helps you continue to grow. As Albert Einstein once said (and Warren Buffet often quotes), “compounding interest is the eighth wonder of the world.”
Buffet, known as the smartest investor of the past century, invests in management teams and products he believes in through his company Berkshire Hathaway. He is also said to only invest in products that he likes and uses, and that fall in his circle of competence. Therefore, as a big holder of both their stocks, you can assume he loves Coke and McDonald’s. He also eats and drinks both regularly. Keep his investment interests in mind as you build your business.
“The only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
The Value of Viability and Balance
What kind of product or service you decide to build is important, too. You have to be insanely fortunate to have success selling an entirely unique product. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, but always remember it is easier to sell a product that is easily understood. When you’re just starting out, and even if you’re not, it’s much easier to sell something people completely understand rather than an avant-garde product.
Whatever you want to try in business, whether you have a brand-new type of shop or a nail salon in a strip mall down the street from another nail salon in another strip mall, the essence is the same: work harder, work smarter, and constantly improve.
One challenge you may find at this stage of your entrepreneurial journey is the difficult task of finding balance between preparing and over preparing. As you build and sell, focus on the details, but don’t let them overshadow your big picture.
Spilling the Oil
In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes of a boy who wants to learn about happiness. The boy’s father sent him to the wisest man in the world: the sage. The boy traveled for forty days to reach the wise man, finally finding him in a bustling palace. When the boy asked for the secret to happiness, the sage responded by suggesting the boy take a walk through his palace and come back in two hours.
The sage had one additional request: he handed the boy a teaspoon with two drops of oil and instructed him not to let the oil spill as he walked the grounds. He toured the palace, his eyes never leaving the spoon. When he returned, the sage asked the boy if he had enjoyed the Persian tapestries and the intricate gardens, but the boy replied he hadn’t seen them; his eyes were focused on the spoon. Although he had spilled no oil, he had also seen none of the glories of the palace.
The sage refilled the spoon with two drops of oil, instructing the boy to savor the details of the palace. When the boy returned, he realized he’s spilled the oil, but he was able to describe in detail the colors, tastes, smells of the palace that were beyond his wildest imagination. The sage responded, “The secret of happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho
The same is true in business; keep an eye on both the details and the big picture—neither of which you can do if you’re cutting corners or letting the fear of making mistakes stop you from moving forward. Fail often and fail quick. Learn from your mistakes. And, if you are smart, learn from other people’s mistakes, too.
What was your favorite tip from this article? Share your thoughts with us below!
5 Key Skills to Grow Your Network as an Entrepreneur
Networking is an essential and important component of the business world. However, as necessary as it may be, business people tend to dread the inevitable task. More often than not, it is because they don’t necessarily find much success throughout the arduous process.
Surprisingly, much of the secret to networking success lies not in how successful your business is, rather, it is in the personal and character-driven skill sets and qualities of the business person or entrepreneur.
If you struggle with networking, or you’re looking to improve upon your already impressive networking skills, here are the 5 essential personal skills you need to make a lasting, positive impression:
1. Be Authentic and Genuine
Sure, being authentic and genuine isn’t necessarily a ‘skill set’ you can just acquire. There are different practices and habits you can adopt which will paint you as a more earnest and reliable business person. The best thing about adopting these practices is that it’s easy. It only requires a little bit of mindfulness and diligence.
Authenticity and being genuine start at the simplest levels. For example, when meeting a new business contact, don’t jump right into business talk. Talk to them as a person first, rather than someone you can benefit from knowing. In the end, treating someone like a friend rather than an advantageous contact will make them more likely to help and guide you.
Moreover, being genuine is typically something people can sense. Typically in the business world, people get caught up in the work aspect of things and the ‘dog-eat-dog-world’ mentality.
While you should be looking out for your business and its success, this doesn’t mean you should walk over other people to get there. Character and management styles communicate a lot about a person, and this could turn away contacts if you’re too cutthroat.
Finally, in being authentic and genuine, be mindful of people who maybe can’t provide you with the same opportunities you can provide them. Don’t treat these people any less than the contacts that can give you plenty of opportunities.
How you treat those who can logistically ‘do nothing’ for you is just as important as how you treat the CEO of a major corporation. This is a key component of having an authentic and likeable character when networking.
2. Make it a Two-way Street
Networking is never about one person making out better than the other party. It takes a joint effort to create a mutually beneficial and lasting business relationship. Typically, selfish people don’t create business contacts because they’re only looking to gain for themselves. The best way to nurture networking relationships is to offer something beneficial to the other party.
Based on the Robert B. Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” the principle of reciprocation instinctively kicks in and compels us to return the favor. Essentially, you will get more out of networking relationships when you offer up an attractive service, favor, product, or deal to the other party because, generally, they will feel compelled to return the favor.
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” – Keith Ferrazzi
3. Be Easy to Teach
As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably overcome a handful of trials and tribulations. It’s no secret that to be an entrepreneur you have to be cunning, clever, relentless, dedicated, and driven.
Generally, entrepreneurs get a lot of credit, but it’s important not to let this get to your head. One important aspect of networking is not only the opportunities available presented to you, but also any lessons or words of wisdom the person offers.
Being easy to teach makes these business contacts more likely to share their experiences with you, what works, what doesn’t, and how to handle different situations. Not only are you encouraging and empowering the person giving you the advice, but you’re also taking in new perspectives and ideas to help you and your business. It’s a win-win situation for both parties.
Moreover, people are more likely to connect with and help people that listen intently and recognize the validity and value of other people’s viewpoints. Receive the advice and ideas contacts give you with an open mind, and you’ll be sure to make a lasting positive impression.
4. Stay in Touch
While staying in touch isn’t necessarily a personality or character trait, it’s extremely important. Business relationships are just like any other relationship: they require constant effort, following up, and reciprocation. Very often, people exchange business cards without ever following back up. Even if the contact isn’t necessarily relevant to your business, you exchanged cards for a reason.
Essentially, you never know who they may know or what advice they may have to help you in your business endeavors. It may seem like a tedious task, but following up and staying in touch with new and old network contacts is one of the most important parts of developing and fostering healthy, beneficial business relationships.
“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama
5. Show your Appreciation and Gratitude
Even though networking is pretty much a universal endeavor, it never hurts to express your appreciation and gratitude to the contact you made. By simply sending a ‘thank you’ email, or better yet a ‘thank you’ card, you’re sure to gain major brownie points with the contacts in your network.
This is because gratitude and appreciation are hard to come by. Even if the act was as simple as exchanging business cards or taking time to have a coffee, you should thank the other party. Not only does it bode well for your character, but it also shows that you respect and value their time, opinions, and any help or advice they may offer.
This should also be kept in mind for contacts you have had for a while. Even if the relationship gets comfortable, it’s still important to thank them every now and again. This helps ensure that the relationship is still appreciated and valued and that neither party is taking the other for granted. By showing your appreciation, people are then more likely to continue to help you. It also might help you be more grateful overall in your day-to-day life!
Networking can seem like a daunting task however, if you go into it with genuine and mindful intentions, you could wind up meeting some fascinating people, developing long-lasting business relationships, and advancing the interests of you and your business.
Often times, formal institutions and coaching focuses on the technical aspects of networking: how to shake a hand, how to deliver an elevator pitch, what to wear, and how to speak. All these aspects are important, but they can come off rather robotic.The key to successful networking lies in the personality and genuineness of your character.
At the end of the day, if you are shallow and selfish with your interests when networking, you’ll have a much harder time developing lasting, beneficial relationships. Being mindful and down-to-earth should be the main thing in mind when embarking on networking efforts.
How do you network with people and grow your personal brand? Share your thoughts and ideas with us below!
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