Some days it seems like everyone has an opinion on how you should work.

They tell you - don't take it personally, but you need to work smarter.

  • Well, do take it personally and they're right
  • But, ignore them if it doesn't work for you
Only you know what working smarter means for you.

Three Smart Steps

When I started my own business in 2008, I had a very simple goal - survival. I made (and continue to make) plenty of mistakes. Here's what I have learned - so far.

1. Know what you need.

We all have different reasons for our freelance business.

  • For some, it's a full-time career
  • For others, it's part-time until you quit your day job
  • And some freelance for pocket money

Whatever your reason, you need to understand what you need from your business.

I define my needs in two ways - body and soul.
  • Body is your basics - to eat, pay your bills, survival
  • Soul is complex simplicity - what makes you happy?

It took me a while to figure that out. And it changes.

For example, when I started out, I lived and worked alone. I threw different projects at my work-board to see what stuck. I accepted plenty of gigs far below my targeted earnings (no, I never worked for content mills).

They fed the body, but starved the soul.
  • I felt desperate and pathetic
  • I hated many of the projects

I decided to pay more attention to my soul.

One of the nagging issues for me was personal. My dad had died the year before and my mother was living alone. We were in the height of the real estate fallout, so selling her house was not the best idea.

  • I packed up my laptop and moved in with Mom
  • I felt better about being there to help
  • And it helped me get my business off the ground

I discovered what I needed from my business.

  • Flexibility for my family needs
  • A base income that maximized my hours worked
  • Doing the kind of work I enjoyed

I had to learn to work smarter.

2. Know your bottom line.

I converted my corporate salary to my freelance salary – or so I thought.

  • I underestimated time spent on unbillable hours (e.g., marketing, computer problems, etc.)
  • I didn't factor in the change from working alone to being interrupted during the day

I had to go back to the drawing board on my bottom line fee. A great place to start is right here at All Freelance Writing. Check out the Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator. I found it to be a great tool.

Don't worry if you don't get it right the first time. I didn't. You can always adjust it as you get more productive and learn to work smarter.

Do not compromise your bottom line.

When you start chipping away at your bottom line, you're taking body blows to your livelihood.

3. Cut out the fat.

My fee was not my biggest problem. I needed to cut out the fat.

  • Get a better return on my investment
  • Learn to maximize my productivity

Here are a few things I did that helped.

  • Narrowed scope of projects by cutting out smaller "one and done" projects and focusing on those with a better return
  • White papers that produce higher income
  • Case Studies that I love doing and have a good return
  • Ghostwritten articles where I contract for a series instead of just one
  • Blogging with a minimum of a six-month contract

Each year I expand the number of projects for my "anchor" clients. (Love that term - if I could remember who coined it, I'd give her credit). This is the first year I am working on a retainer with a guaranteed monthly income.

Set an education budget – In my first year of freelancing, there wasn't a book I didn't buy or a webinar I didn't attend. It was a real time and money-waster.

By sticking to an education budget (which includes limiting time on FREE webinars), I get a better return on my investment.

Made Friday admin day – For me, Friday's a kickback day. I decided to do my admin work on Fridays. It's one less distraction during the week, allowing me to be more productive.

Love Yourself

Before we start singing Kumbaya, what I mean is don't beat yourself up and have fun.

Start simple and expandWhen you set unrealistic goals, you set yourself up for disappointment. Start simple and expand.

For example, first plan to increase your income X percent. The next year, add a target for new clients. After that, set specific targets for income, marketing, expenses.

Do work you enjoy – I found out that I hate copyediting. I simply do not enjoy editing other people's writing. So, I stopped offering those services.

I feed my soul through creative writing, my personal blog and taking time for family and things I love to do.

Working smarter means something different for each of us.
  • Lay the foundation by taking care of the body – Know your bottom line and cut out the fat
  • Then work on the soul – Reward yourself for your accomplishments and do what you love
Do take it personally.

How have you learned to work smarter?

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