Let’s Talk Career: Why I’m Re-Branding For 2018

The short answer is, when people are looking for a freelancer to provide a service, they want to hire an individual more than they want to hire a service. They want to know the person they are hiring. Their complete personal profile, including but not limited to persona, written and oral communication, integrity, reliability, the past experiences of others working with you, among others. Of course, people are interested in your competence, but often, a person may be competent but difficult or unpleasant to work with.

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By putting my face to my name and work, however unintentional over the past year, I have have been able to secure more business opportunities and projects, because clients start off hesitant and recommendations will most likely travel faster about a person, how they are to work with, quality and reliability, than a writing service.

As I have mentioned in my last freelancing post Freelancing: One Year Update this is one reason I have neglected to continue on the popular freelancing websites such as Upwork and Freelancer. Contractors looking for freelancers via these mediums tend to want large amounts and quality of work for next to nothing prices, luring freelancers with the promise of frequent or ongoing work and good reviews. Simply, I am unable to compete with freelancers from other markers, who’re much less skilled and willing to work for peas.

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The quality of my work speaks for itself. Your work is valued at it’s worth. I am unwilling to be paid $2.00 for a piece of work that I have put research, time, intellectual resources and editing and writing skills into perfecting. I am equally unwilling to produce sub-par work that is less than within my abilities and send it out with my name attached in an effort for it to be worth the ‘price tag’. My name is my brand, and each project/piece I work on will reflect that image.

Additionally, the option exists for the contractor to decide whether or not to pay you or to prolong their ‘satisfaction’ in lieu of payment. An irritating example of something that happened to me last year, is that a contractor and I discussed a project and we agreed on the price. After 24 hours of research and writing, I submitted the project and he was unhappy. He then proceeded to provide clarity on what he wanted, which turned out to be completely different from we discussed and instructions that pertinent were to be provided prior to the project, not on completion.

When I pointed that out, he said he agreed, but it was ‘no big deal’, I could re-do it with the new instructions. So to him, my time and effort were not valuable and I could afford to work for two days, for $2.00. I refused. I politely suggested that he could contract the piece to someone else as I was no longer in interested in working with him further. The client proceeded to ask me to return his instalment, which was a fraction of the cost agreed to. Again, I refused. He proceeded to threaten me with a ‘bad review’ as a new freelancer on the platform if I didn’t and opened a dispute. I explained that is was okay and this was followed by multiple threats and harassment.

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Suffice to say, he did leave a bad review, claiming that I only ‘played by my own rules’ and should only be hired for a ‘joke’ project. As you can imagine, spending hours and days working on a project for someone to decide they will not pay you at their leisure is bad for business, and the platform offers no persona to the freelancers who use them, particularly new users, who are heavily dependent on reviews.

My client base has grown over the past year has indicated the preference of hiring me as an individual, not just a mechanical skill set. While you may be bound to have situations where contractors fail to pay, they are less likely if the project coordinator takes into account realistically the time and skills required and market value for the project at hand. I know my worth.

Freelancing: One Year Update

Okay, I’ve officially been at this for a year, and I have to admit, it’s going pretty well. There are a few growing pains but they were expected. It has been a learning curve. I have absorbed a lot, navigated a bit and found what has been working well for me and what has not.

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Not What I Thought

It’s true that until you’ve walked in some shoes, you don’t know what you’re going to do. When I decided to start freelancing, I had envisioned doing it the way most people and sources online recommended, particularly for someone with no network or experience freelancing.

 

IMG_-hr8v8xThe typical suggestion is to create profiles on freelancing websites, like Upwork, People Per Hour, Freelancer, Fiverr, Outsourcely, etc. to find jobs. There are also a lot of dishonest people, and people looking to take advantage of new freelancers, paying sometimes as little as 5% of a job’s actual cost while reaping the benefits of not only great work to pass off as their own but recommendations and reviews as well. To date,, I have only gotten a few jobs on Freelancer and once I found out that I was pretty much being used and would have to be ok with it for a while to make it on there, I stopped looking as much. These are great, but if you want to make a career, focusing on something specific, it may not be the best route, at least, not for every type of skillset.

Instead, I’ve invested in branding myself, sharping my focus on the skills and services I want to offer and Clients have found me via my Upwork profile and contacted me via my Email and my Website, but in terms of the Upwork website itself, nothing. Truthfully, for the entire past year, 95% of clients have found me, which is not what I expected at all. Some of those clients have found me using LinkedIn.

 

Network Support

When I began, I would have told you that I don’t know anyone. I don’t feel that I know very many people or have networked enough to be able to freelance or anything else on my own locally. I did, however, find out first hand that the old saying, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” is quite true. Once I started to seriously buckle down about increasing my social media presence, branding and ensuring that I’m highly visible online, I realized that my social media connections and friends were very supportive sharing, referring and providing patronage.

hands-1445472_960_720.jpgVery quickly, I realized that friends of friends, and those noticing when you think they aren’t are there. Many times I would receive a contact who said I got your info from so and so. So and so being someone I have never even spoken to. It’s still a lot out of my comfort zone, but I hear that’s where life begins. One of the best parts of this past year is that I’ve influenced and helped at least a half a dozen friends and associates to start blogging and/or freelancing. I feel a sense of purpose from it and I love that.

 

The Best Of Freelancing

downloadSo overall, I love it. I love the freedom it offers. There are definitely gaps n work, but fortunately, it has never lasted too long. I get to stay home with my daughter which is a huge plus, as well as choose the project I want to work on or clients I want to work with. However, the lack of contact with the outside social world and adults for days and sometimes weeks is maddening and I may or may not consider giving up the full-time toot.

Things I Learned

Have I been taken advantage of during the past year? Yes. I’ve had my work stolen under the guise of “show us what you can do.” I’ve had an experienced freelancer present a project valued at hundreds of dollars for less than US$40. I did it. Why? Because I said I would before I realized the dishonesty for what it was and I will keep my integrity. I have only two (2) outstanding payments currently (both local, which is unfortunate) and I don’t expect them to be collected. What they did do though, is force me to protect myself going forward. For writing projects, I require a NON-REFUNDABLE  50% downpayment for all projects over US$200, and to be paid upfront for projects costing less. I will also provide the completed project for viewing but no access until the full amount is settled.

Tips

So what have I learned along the way that I want to share? Here are a few things.

  • Be Exclusive – As great as it is to be multifaceted, it can put a  strain on advertising and your SEO standing in. If you are more niche specific in your branding, the faster it will help customers to locate you. Have more than one skill? I suggest picking one or two that you want to focus most of your energy on. The ones you want to be identified by first. I just realized this and I am following through. So for 2018, I’ll be branding ME, rather than just what I do. dialog-148815_960_720

 

  • Be Selective – Don’t accept every project that is offered, even if you are strapped for work. Sometimes, you can smell trouble from a mile away. Whether it is that the potential client is trying to secure your work for next to nothing, or don’t want to pay, sometimes you can tell. I’ve had a few consults and when the final amount was decided on, the potential client disappeared at the mention of paying half first. It’s a 50/50 risk and should not be an issue for a legitimate client.

Overall, I will keep at it, and hopefully, achieve some exciting things in 2018.

 

 

 

Does Size (Length) Really Matter?

TL; DR. The acronym means ‘too long; didn’t read’ and gets a bad rap because the user is labelled lazy and rude. But is that true? How many of us are guilty of this without typing it to let the author of a piece know? I know I am.

As much as I love reading and being informed, the truth is, if I happen upon an article and 500 words in, the point has (or hasn’t) been made, it begins to turn into gibberish and I’m looking forward to the end only to find other thousand or two words, I’m leaving. And my reason would be TL;DR, though I am not likely to write that. It’s for this reason that I rarely put out any content longer than around the 1200 word mark. I would much rather preserve the quality of my piece and have it be entertaining or informative (whichever it was designed to do) by getting straight to the point. I’ve come across so many articles that started out great but ended awfully, because of the forced word count.

To give an example, when I was in school I was the girl who was flabbergasted at the need for my peers to demand an extra two or three sheets in an exam to finish up an essay type question. I just did not get it, what were they always writing so that I could not think of?! And yet, when the results were revealed, my mark was higher or the same. Why? Because I get the point, saying what I need to say with clarity.

So it begs the question; is the length really that important? The answer is yes, though not  in the way most content creators think. As a reader, I prefer to read a 700 word piece that is to the point over a 1500 word piece that causes you to stop half way through and skim the article for bits and pieces of why you opened the article in the first place. With a piece like that, when the skimming produces nothing and the reader realizes they will have to finish the article and hope the meet of the matter is there somewhere, 9 times out of 10, the reader will leave without finishing.

Similarly, if the information has already been presented and there are 1000 words filling spaces, the reader will also choose to stop reading.

So the next time you put out a rather long piece that you think is great because of the word count, you may want to assess whether same has compromised your content quality. After-all, how will you know if the larger portion of your audience has been bidding you a TL;DR without saying so?

A Beginner’s Freelancing Guide

Freelance JA Connection Network

If you have been following our social media pages, you’ve noticed that we provide freelancing tips daily. Freelancing is a lot of trial an error, and we need as much help as we can get starting out. We’ve put together a basic beginner’s freelancing guide will help first time freelancers or potential freelancer to become better organized before you jump into the waters and getting their feet wet.

To Do List

Start a Blog

Whatever you’re freelancing in, blog about it or blog about yourself (depending on your niche). Help people to connect the dots to you and your product/service. Remember that freelancing is sales. This is how you will position yourself as an expert in your field.

Set up a Work Station

Wherever it is, set up a place so that you know that this is your workspace. It doesn’t matter where it is, as long you are able…

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Pros And Cons Of Being a Freelancer.

While it is an attractive endeavor to become a freelancer, many people assume it is easy work. Freelancing is no walk in the park, and requires hours of dedication and an assiduous work ethic to be successful. As with any business venture, and freelancing is essentially starting your own business, there are some pros and cons. So what are some of them?

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Pros

Flexibility

You can enjoy the freedom to set your own hours, decide for yourself how many hours you want or need to put in. If you are a night person and you are most productive at night, you have the freedom to work at night and spend your days sleeping or socializing.

In Charge Of Your Own Career

To a larger extent, when you are employed to someone other than yourself, the progression of your career is impacted by factors such as, the industry, the work environment, the company you work for, etc.  As a freelancer, you are your boss and the master at the wheel steering your own career. How far you go or not, is solely depend on you.

Work From Home (Or anywhere you want)

Most freelancer are able to set up a home office and work within the comfort of their home. In order to maximize disposable income, the possible exclusion of daily travel expenses (fares and gas) or a rigidly formal wardrobe is a major plus.

Low Start-Up Costs

To get started, freelancing requires minimal monetary initial investment. You can decide if you want to start out doing it as a side job and then transition to full-time after you have gained traction or a significant client base, or you can decide to jump all-in full-time, engines revving. Depending on the services you offer, a freelancer’s main tools will be a computer (laptop or desktop), internet access and a cell phone.

Work-Life Balance

If you are family oriented, striking that work life balance is that much easier when freelancing.

Reputation is Everything

As a freelancer, your reputation will be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal and word of mouth travels fast. If you are consistent and produce stellar work, you are  likely to be recommended to other potential clients and/or re-hired by the same client who has another job in your field.

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Cons

 

You are in Charge

You may have noticed that this was cited earlier a pro. That is because it can be both; a pro and a con. It requires discipline to work for yourself. Since the client’s deadlines are the only persistent encouragement you will have, the rest of your motivation must come from you. If someone hires you by contract, they are expecting you to deliver, both in quality and with punctuality.

Unstable Income

As a freelancer, you will only be paid as much as you work. No work or clients, no income. A steady stream of clients is likely to only come after years of establishing yourself. This means you must constantly be on the prowl for new clients, projects and opportunities. You must also determine if an opportunity, even if it does not pay monetarily, is worth the investment and whether you can actually afford to forgo another project that does pay in cash, but will only important until it’s completed.

Reputation is Everything

You may recognize this ones from the list of pros. That is because, it can be both. If you are inconsistent and unreliable, your reputation will follow you just as closely and may even travel faster that if you are a model person to work with. There is nowhere to hide, when you are your business, you represent it in its entirety.

Being a freelancer can be a rewarding career path, and as with any other decision, you should weigh the pros and cons before jumping in to get your feet wet.

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Shandean is a freelance writer and business planning consultant. Visit her website Shandean WR Business Services for hire.

3 Killer Productivity Tools for Freelancers

Christine Speaks

Productivity is never an accident. It’s the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort. ~Paul Meyer

Bruno Mars’ hit single,The Lazy Song, is every freelancer’s cry on those overwhelming days. The temptation to sit at your desk and do anything else except the work you need to do is great. However, as freelancers we have to live by the wise words of Paul Meyer. With proper planning, laser-like focus, and a passion for excellence we can win the battle of procrastination. Thankfully, the app and software gods have created a myriad of tools to help people keep on top of their game. Three of the best apps I’ve used are highlighted below.

Wunderlist

Creating a to-do list is something many people shy away from. It seems easier to rely on memory and trust that inner angel to push us to do what we need to do…

View original post 571 more words

My Freelance Strategy (Starting)

Since I’ve started promoting my freelancing services and even more after the publishing of Let’s Talk Career: Why I Chose To Freelance Full-Time, I’ve had a few people ask me about information regarding freelancing. They want to know what I do, how I do it, am I making a lot of money, etc.

I wish I could tell you I’m making tonnes of money straight off the bat, but that is just not how it works. So I decided I would share my journey into freelancing and the strategy that I have decided to use. Before we go any further, let me first say, if you are looking to freelance for a quick buck or looking for a get rich quick scheme, this is not the way. Being a freelancer most definitely has it perks, but you do have to actually work.

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Deciding What Freelance Services To Offer

This was easy for me. I had already started to freelance writing business plans a few years ago, but never nurtured it as a primary source of income. I also decided that I had other skills worth selling, such as writing, Public Relations, marketing, social media and customer service management, so I offer those too. I also offer other services that are requested by clients once they are within my capabilities or within my capacity to learn

Preparing A Portfolio 

This part was fairly easy too. Since I’d been writing business plans a few years, I had samples of my work, I just needed to select pieces for my portfolio. Regarding the writing portion, I retrieved samples from both my personal and business blog. The rest I add as I go, continuously updating. Clients will want to see samples of your work. Since business plans usually contain confidential information and even intellectual property, I had to be creative in using excerpts to show the quality of work, without compromising confidential information.

Registration

I targeted January 2017 as the starting month for the best time for me to start freelancing full-time. It was the perfect time because it was late enough that I would be okay at 3 months postpartum, and early enough to give me the time I need to set targets and get results. After-all, when if not the start of the year to measure yearly progress at the end of the year?

So before my daughter was born I ensured that I registered my business Shandean Williams-Reid Business Services and designated a bank account that would host income made from that avenue. Registering is not something you have to do if you are conducting business in your own name as a sole proprietor in Jamaica, but there are certain benefits that come with having your business registered and I wanted those opportunities to be available to me should I need or want them in the future.

 Branding & Re-Branding

Branding myself with my name has been something I have wanted to do for as far back as I can remember. What better way could there be to achieve this than with a freelancing business? So, the next step was having my logo created and trademarked. I then purchased a domain and re-branded my blog as my website. I then created facilitating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media pages. This is an on-going process and I am continuously trying new things and adding and subtracting trying to find the best fit. Reading and researching the best way to go is also a continuous process. I am confident that I am close to exactly where I want to be, with branding myself and my freelancing business. I am learning everyday, pulling bits and pieces of information and inspiration from veteran or more experienced freelancers.

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 Promotion, PR & Advertising

This is also an on-going process as I am in continuous PR and promotion mode. I am using all sorts of platforms at my disposal to get the word out, including but not limited to social media using my personal account and running paid ads on the pages I manage. I have also printed business cards. A month after the launch of the Shandean brand, I also launched an online advertising business for local Jamaican freelancers. Of course, this medium is included in my strategy . It is a freelancer’s dream to have their clients come to us, but that  requires work to be possible. I have been fortunate enough in the past two months to find that potential clients have been coming to me, but i also know it could be beginners luck or that I’m doing something right. Time will tell.

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http://www.freelanceja.com


 Online & Physical Networking

I’ve been exploring websites, articles, freelancers, jobs and even entering a mini competition as a part of my networking strategy. Winning has only served to boost my confidence and make more visible to potential clients. My end goal is that when someone has or sees a job in my service area, I will be first in their mind. So far, so good.

I’ve also made a conscious effort to seek out networking events and even will be hosting one myself in April as the official launch of Freelance JA, the online marketing board for local  (Jamaican) freelancers. This too is an ongoing process.

Job Search

 Lastly but not least, it is a perpetual job hunt. I am prepared for it to be for a while, until I have  jobs and clients lined up months in advance. That is my goal. I’ve been using platforms like Freelancer, Outsourcely and UpWork, but truthfully, those have yet to produce any results. Like I mentioned, so far, clients have been coming to me. I am only a few months in though, so we’ll see.

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My strategy is indeed evolving and will no doubt continue to. However, this is me sharing my starting point with you. If you think that you want to freelance too, I would suggest that you create a strategy of your own, or even try  the one I have put forward, see if it works for you and you can alter as is necessary.

Let’s Talk Career: Why I Chose To Freelance Full-Time

It didn’t occur to me that I could freelance full-time while living in Jamaica until maybe a year ago. The services I offer are not only perfect, they are a needed skill set. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to get started but the more I thought about it, the more I was sure that is what I want to do. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but worth it.

 

Why?

When I became pregnant, my husband and I discussed childcare options and going back to work. We immediately discovered that we both preferred that I be our daughter’s primary caregiver and each had no idea when we’d prefer I get back to working. It was strange that we had not considered this before given how many times we had discussed children. At the end of the conversation, my husband decided he would leave the decision up to me. So there I was with the decision to make all by myself. I suspect he left the decision to me because while we both wanted me to stay with our baby as long as possible, we knew I am no a stay at home mom material, nor did I want to be a stay at home mom.

I considered three months, six months, a year… the only answer that kept jumping out at me was ‘when she can talk‘. I guess I just wanted her to be able to tell me if she was being mistreated. But what would I do til then? I spent the better part of my pregnancy chewing my friend’s ear off about a business idea that would allow me to make a decent income while hitching my baby on my side.

I decided to jump all in freelancing full-time. This would not only allow me to steer my own career, I could start working again sooner rather than later, which is a much needed plus. It’s also monumental that my daughter doesn’t need to go out to daycare, saving us the worry and costs associated. This route also allows me to continue to exclusively breastfeed.

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Working  From Home

Somewhere along the line it hit me that I did want to be a stay at home mother. Not the kind that was doing domestic duties all day, but I did want to work from home. I had a freelance business I would need start doing full-time pouring my time energy and effort into it if I wanted to be successful. I started this blog because I had a lot of time on my hands while I was pregnant and I wanted to rediscover my passion for writing. I had stopped and though I can’t recall why, I never lost my fire for reading. I also wanted to share my pregnancy journey because I felt there wasn’t enough blogs that recounted experiences from the perspective I would have liked as a first time mother. So I wrote/blogged and decided I wanted to work from home. There are so many benefits;

  • I can choose my clients and projects
  • Staying at home with my daughter
  • Contributing to our finances
  • Setting my own hours
  • Career flexibility and freedom

There has never been as many career paths and choices as there are today. I plan to take full advantage of that. What about you?

Jamaican Freelance Market; Untapped

Freelancers are persons who are self-employed to provide services (usually tailored) to clients through short, medium or long-term. As a freelancer, we usually have multiple clients at any given time or successive short-term projects. I’m a freelancer myself.

If you nurture your freelancing careers, it can become a viable career option, especially if you are a student, before facing the harsh realities of the unrepentant wave that is the job market.

Becoming A Freelancer

Becoming a freelancer is easy, in fact, if you have a skill or you are willing to develop and perfect one, the discipline to work without supervision and an entrepreneurial mindset, you are ready for freelancing. You just need a computer, a phone and the internet depending on the services you offer.


Booming Industry? 

It sure is! The freelancing phenomenon is especially attractive with the benefits and opportunities that increase steadily on  daily basis to work online and envelop an extensively large number of skills, ranging from business services (accounting, payroll, PR) to graphic designing to make-up artistry. Your career path, work hours and clients are exclusively up to you. What you get out is directly proportional to the work you put in. You are in control.

Jamaican universities, colleges and vocational schools churn out thousands of skilled hopefuls each year into the labour market, The statistical institute of Jamaica (STATIN), reported a whopping unemployed labour force of 176, 300 as at July 2016, only a slight decrease from the 184, 900 reported in April of the same year. With these numbers and so few jobs to go around, many of us are quickly discouraged from job hunting and can spend month or even years trying to find employment.

 

Career Opportunities

Freelancing offers a person with a skill, not only the opportunity to make a meaningful income on a flexible schedule, but opens you up to not only local clients, but the international market as well. Companies such as local company Freelance JA Connection Network and international companies like UpWork and Freelancer provide platforms for freelancers to find work

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Local freelancers have the opportunity to advertise  their services to potential clients, which is beneficial for both remote and hands on skill sets.

On a larger scale, freelancers who do online work or secure overseas clients earn their income in US dollars or a stronger currency. Jamaican business coach and entrepreneur, Yaneek Page, has produced several articles over the last few years and has been a major advocate of freelancing as a career path for Jamaicans

Freelancing is a booming industry, one of the most lucrative means of entrepreneurship and Jamaica by and large has not yet caught on, leaving the market virtually untapped.

P.S. I am a freelancer writer and business planning consultant, visit my website www.shandeanwilliams.com for blogs, articles, business plans, proposals, etc.