A Day in the Life of a Virtual Wardrobe Stylist

One of the awesome things about freelancing is the variety of freelance paths available. I love meeting with these amazing folks who have broken away from the office environment and created their own career. Today’s guest post from Nicole Longstreath is a great example of how the freelance lifestyle can be applied to non-traditional roles:

Nicole Longstreah - Guest PosterA Day in the Life of a Virtual Wardrobe Stylist

“Virtual Wardrobe Stylist?” you may be asking.

Yes – what I do is a mix of 2 different things. The first is coaching women directly via Skype where I teach them to overcome limiting beliefs about their look, their wardrobe, their body, etc., as well as how to do things like properly organize their closet and build outfits. The other component is virtual styling which involves shopping online for clients and helping them use their existing wardrobe.

But, as with most freelance work, a big part of my job is marketing. So here is what a typical day looks like:

7:00 to 8:00 am As hard as I try to get up early, it’s just not happening. But, hey, making your own schedule is what self-employment is all about right? On a good day, I feed the cat, kiss the husband good-bye and drive down to my favorite spot in Corona del Mar for a walk down to a small, secluded beach. I usually sit in the sand and soak up the wind and waves for about 15 minutes, then I take a brisk walk up the hill and back down 3 times. Exercise: done.
8:15 to 9:30 am Shower, breakfast and coffee. Lots of coffee.
9:30 to 11:30 am Marketing. I network on my main social media channels: Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I try to find a good mix of sharing, being helpful and (of course) promotion. I’m a member of some fantastic Facebook groups which are all filled with my target clients, so I just try to be a good and helpful member. Also in these groups, I look for others who have blogs I can read, share and comment on. Potential clients are everywhere!
12:00 to 2:00 pm After a snack break, I’m back to marketing. But now I’m reaching out to people directly by pitching myself for podcast interviews, guest blog posts and speaking engagements to grow my business.
2:30 to 5:00 pm I like seeing clients in the afternoon because it gives me plenty of time to prepare by reviewing notes and gathering any resources for our appointment.

I’d like to say that my day ends here, but it doesn’t. I usually spend time with my husband making dinner and watching TV until about 9:30 pm and then it’s back to work to wrap up any unfinished tasks from the day. Someday I’ll have an assistant to delegate some of these tasks to. But, until then, I think I’m doing pretty well with my system. However, working for myself is so incredibly rewarding that working late doesn’t really bother me.

The key to maintaining all of this is self-care. For me, that means as many beach walks as possible and making time for rest and relationships on the weekends.

Nicole Longstreath is on a mission to save women from the dysfunctional shopping experience. She is a virtual wardrobe stylist working with women across the globe to build personal brands that command attention and influence. You can find her at her home base, theWardrobeCode.com, on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

LinkedIn – Stop Trying to be Facebook. You’re Better Than That.

Thanks LinkedInSo I managed to get another year older last week, despite all efforts to avoid the aging process. And by efforts I mean strongly wishing not to get older, certainly not by eating right or (shudder) exercising.  It’s not that I’m concerned that each day brings me closer to the eternal sleep, it’s just I’d prefer my body and mind would agree on an age. My id refuses to believe I’m older than 18. My 60-year-old friend explains this is the same for him, and his 80-year-old father agrees, so I guess the good news is I’ll be 18 ‘til I die – in mind, if not in body.

Social media has changed birthdays for many of us over the past decade. Facebook gives us the ability to share our birthday wishes with all of our friends, be they RL friends, acquaintances, contacts, and even that random guy who always makes a smart ass comment on every post you share. This is fine, because this is what FB has become for most users. It’s a place to exchange pleasantries while maintaining an appropriate distance. I like all of the people in my FB group, but I wouldn’t necessarily hangout with all of them, and I know that goes both ways.

LinkedIn has been trying to capture this type of engagement with “like”able posts you can share with your professional contacts. When these posts were work-focused, this was fine, but now our stream is polluted with the same drivel found on our FB walls. Where new job announcements and work anniversaries were found among the links to useful professional content, we now find birthday announcements and “what word do you see first” posts. What’s next – Farmville games and selfies?

I’m not a fan of silos, but I think separating personal from professional contacts was a strength for LinkedIn. Many people, myself included, use LinkedIn for connecting with prospects, customers, and colleagues. Sending – or receiving – birthday wishes in this network is spammy and cheesy, and provides no value at all to this space.

Maybe I’m just a crotchety old man, but perhaps if we used LinkedIn as a place to promote our professional endeavours only, the principals at LinkedIn would start introducing new features designed to leverage opportunities instead of playing catch-up with Facebook.

What do you think? What am I missing?

Using Google+ for B2B – Infographic

Today’s infographic (shared by guest poster Russel Cooke) provides helpful tips and tricks to get more out of your Google+ profile: How to get started with your Google+ profile, how to find connections, and how to keep growing.

image via SmartVirtualPhoneNumber.com

Russel Cooke is a writer with a passion for business technology and communications. With a background in business marketing, he is always finding new ways to help businesses grow their visibility.

Tales of a Master Procrastinator

 “Never put off til tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well” ~ Mark Twain

work in progress

To be honest, I started this post a few months ago…

In many cases, procrastination within an office environment can go undetected for a long time. It’s not a great way to propel your career in the right direction, but there are a ton of available excuses: office politics, unexpected emergencies, shifted priorities, and adherence to the status quo being all too common.  In the freelance world, if you don’t get it done on time, you’re probably going to lose the client and any referral they might have provided, or worse, they might share your “reliability challenges” within your target market. And that’s not good for business.

Procrastination is easy. There’s Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and a billion other websites, TV shows, movies, family commitments, and everything else that’s willing to suck up your allotted 168 hours each week. To be a successful freelancer, you’ve got to be able to prioritize, commit, and complete each and every project you take on, and if you want to be successful, you must consistently complete them at an excellent level.

I asked a few of freelancers how they procrastinate.

Shawn DeWolfe, of ThoseDewolfesCreative.ca, shared:

How I procrastinate:

  • I get into pointless debates on Facebook
  • I will research weird and obscure topics online for projects that won’t go anywhere at all.
  • I will cook very elaborate meals and start them at 1PM because of all of the steps involved (Homemade pasta? Really?)
  • I have a “shutdown code” that fires in my head to give me the uncontrollable need to have a nap instead of finishing what I am doing.

Lori C., another frustrated freelancer, said:

If you want to know what I do during my procrastination of a particular project or goal… quite a bit.  I get caught up on all the little things that could wait:  cleaning, de-cluttering, organizing papers into files/folders, errands, returning calls/emails/messages, and other miscellaneous nothings.

Then, I think about it… and think about it some more, while simultaneously telling myself that this is actually me working on my project.

Finally, when it would take a miraculous effort to finish on time, I begin work on my project and I tell myself: “Just get it done or you’ll be so embarrassed.”

How I overcome allowing this process to happen is to say that last sentence…. first. Repeatedly to myself. And I add, “It’s just like working out at the gym…. you’ll like it once you get started.”   That works most of the time.  And when it’s really tough, I add music in the background as it can relax me and my mind. The anxiety diminishes and then I can get to work on my project immediately.

Since I was already on reddit, it made sense to ask them, too:

My bad habit is putting off working on my larger, more urgent projects by spending all my time working on much easier, unnecessary tasks (like updating social media, organising and reorganising lists, etc).

Lately I’ve been getting up earlier, putting the urgent task at the top of my list and focusing all of my energy on that task first, not allowing myself to work on anything else. That combined with the Pomodoro technique has been working pretty well for me.

I recall an article I’ve read that I found really addresses this whole issue perfectly. Basically goes through the concept of being afraid of success and how that can hold you back from pushing projects to completion, as well as ways around it. I found it very helpful, hope you do too!

And Lara of The Small Business Blogger, shared:

I’m currently procrastinating, so, I would be thrilled to take a bit of time to share what I’ve learned about defeating procrastination:

  • FocusBooster is the bomb. There’s something about that ticking noise that really means business.
  • Barking Up the Wrong Tree has a great article on using your instinct toward procrastination to make yourself more productive, which I really ought to put into practice someday.
  • And hey, he just wrote a new article on conquering procrastination that I think I’ll wander off and read. You know, for enlightenment and expanded knowledge and stuff.
  • Start by doing one easy, pleasurable thing. It gets me into work mode without being too painful.
  • Lists and deadlines. Sometimes, I need a hard deadline breathing down my neck to get myself moving. I fiddled around for hours yesterday before finishing everything on my mondo list.

Personally, I’m guilty of chatting on r/freelance or checking my ebook sales on Amazon too often. Apparently I need to know when each new sale happens. Or doesn’t happen…

Some of the tools I use to stay on track and work towards completing each project:

  • StayFocusd – this is an excellent browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox. It lets you allot a daily time limit for extraneous websites. Once you’ve surpassed this limit, you’ll be redirected to a “Shouldn’t you be working?” landing page. This is a great tool, but it’s easy enough to get around by opening up a different browser (one that doesn’t have the plugin installed). Personal discipline is required.
  • RescueTime – This is another nice tool, but it is more passive. It will monitor the sites you visit daily, regardless of browser (including private browsing). Based on your browsing habits, you are assigned a “productivity rating” and this info is emailed to you on a weekly basis. You can tweak the default settings if you find that some sites are more productive for your needs. Chances are, Reddit is not a great way to spend your day…
  • Physical Blocks – There are other tools available that you can use to physically (well, virtually – nobody is going to tap you on the shoulder when you visit Facebook) turn off specific websites. I’ve used Cold Turkey for a while and found it to be very preventative. Other people have used their router to block unproductive domains (have a friend/family member enter a new password if you don’t trust yourself to tinker with the settings in a moment of weakness)
  • Check out Mike Vardy’s blog, Productivityist, for more tips and tricks to increase your productivity.

While these are great tools, I’ve found that by choosing to procrastinate productively, I can give myself a mental break from the current project and use my time effectively to build my business. Instead of getting sucked into cat videos, I’ll look for new clients. Instead of spending a few hours minutes on reddit, I’ll do a blog post or update my portfolio. I still spend some time in social media and other fun sites, but I try and limit my time in these spaces until outside of my regular office hours.

What do you do to avoid procrastination?

“You may delay, but time will not” ~ Benjamin Franklin

 

Photo credit: Grant Kwok – Flickr

Prospecting Tips for Freelancers

Being a freelancer means you’ve always got to have an eye out for new business opportunities.  How do you do it?

I’m quite lucky to be in the writing business, as it’s one of those places where there will always be someone in need of compelling content. As long as there are products to sell there will be work for copywriters, but just because there is a need doesn’t mean the clients are beating a path to my door. To ensure I can enjoy my fuzzy bunny slippers for another day, I make sure to invest time daily to prospect for new clients, and here are a few tips I’ve found that seem to make the process easier.  Regardless of the type of freelancing you do, these tips will hopefully help you land more business.

Let the tools do their job

I’ve setup my Tweetdeck to alert me when the term “copywriter” is used in a tweet, and this has been one of the most effective ways for me to find new clients.  As soon as something is tweeted I can follow the link to see where the person posted to learn a bit about their expectations, as well as gain some insight into the scope of their project.  Often the tweets are retweets from various job boards, but sometimes they are from tweople looking for a freelancer, which is great because it gives you the opportunity to research them before you respond.  A detailed response showing you know something about their business is much more impressive than a canned response of “I’m a copywriter – hire me!”

Another option is to setup a Google alert for a specific phrase, like “web developer needed” or “hiring graphic designer.”  This is an easy way to get notified the moment Google finds a site with this phrase, allowing you to be one of the first to jump on it.

Self-promotion

There are some people that can talk about themselves endlessly.  This is not self-promotion. Telling your prospective clients how great you are is one thing; showing them is another.  Talk about how you can help them with their business, how you can solve their specific problem, or how you were able to help a client just like them exceed their targets.  The key is to talk about them and their needs.  Just like sex – your needs aren’t really that important.  Prove to the prospect that you know what they need, and why you’re the best person to do it.

Blogs, forums, and other online communities, including and especially LinkedIn, are a great space for you to engage in self-promotion.  As you establish yourself as an expert, you’ll start to find new referrals coming in from these sources.  There’s a ton of value when an established professional recommends your business to their clients, and this happens more frequently than you might think.  Nobody wants to hand off good clients to bad freelancers, but there are going to be times in your freelance life that you’re just too busy to take on that new client, so it’s nice to have someone that has impressed you within your virtual community.

That being said – don’t be shy when someone asks about your business.  Have a short description to share with them, but make it memorable by using examples that relate to their business.

Network: online, offline, often

While this is one of the easiest things you can do to build your business, it’s among the hardest for many freelancers, but I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Spend at least twice as much time listening as you do talking.  It’s the best way to meet new people and build the referral component of your business.  When clients are doing your promotion for you, you’re doing something right.

Find an event  that interests you. It doesn’t need to be a chamber mixer or a business lunch, but if that’s what your into, I won’t judge.  It can be a tweetup, a meetup, a facebook event, an afternoon at your local food shelter (anything we can do to help the Mustard Seed is time well spent)  - the point is, it doesn’t really matter as long as there are other people there and you’re genuinely interested in being there.  Networking is about making connections with other people.  It’s not about finding customers or making a sale.  It’s introductions, conversations, and experience, and that’s the key to building your business.

Opportunity Knocks, but why wait?

Your freelancing career – your business – needs to be nurtured in order to grow.  If you aren’t doing it, nobody else will either.  Take some time every day to build your network, increase your education, and give your business the effort it requires.  Some people think being a freelancer means doing nothing: casually working from home, checking facebook all day, and not showering for weeks at a time.  Real freelancers – successful freelancers – know that’s not true at all (except the showering part – sometimes that happens…)

Trading your 9am-5pm job for a life of 5am – 10pm freelancing is hard work, but it’s worth it!

 

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