It’s slightly past July, which means … it’s business review time 🙂 This time of the year, I like to analyze my business activities to see what I’ve done right and what can be improved. Yes, working in a corporate organization does rub off on you!
One of the biggest things that happened to me late last year was this: a big client restructured his business, which would effectively kill off a sizable percentage of my income. Five years ago, I would have panicked big-time. But this time, I didn’t bat an eyelid about how I was going to plug this big hole.
That’s because I’d learned from past mistakes – over reliance on one or two customers. I thought I would talk about this at length since a reader who’s thinking about venturing into freelance writing asked me for my top three tips, so here goes 🙂
I have a simple rule – be professional and helpful to everyone you meet, not just people in positions of power who can advance your freelancing career. Sometimes, a simple act of kindness can open doors that purely professional relationships can’t.
As a kid, I was a super-nerd who used to stalk and write to my favourite columnists. I never got a reply. So when I eventually became a columnist, I told myself I would reply all letters. One day in 2009, a reader wrote in to ask for freelance advice, I emailed her a few practical tips. I forgot all about it until a new client revealed she was that reader I’d taken the trouble to reply nicely. Know what? She’s turned out to be a gem, the only customer I know who actually chases her finance department for deposits and pays early. My revenue from this client has tripled in the last year.
I don’t mean you should spend all your time helping build other people’s dreams, but not everything you do needs to be justified with ROI. Karma works in mysterious ways.
A few years ago, I was drowning in stressful jobs and payment collection problems. I was thisclose to quitting until a phone call from a kind stranger who rescued me out of a tight spot during an assignment saved me.
Sadly, he had not-so-good news. He was fully paralysed after an automobile accident two months ago. With time to reflect, his thoughts recently turned to our encounter, which, though brief, left a deep impact because it reminded him of the muhibbah (multiracial harmony) in our country. “So I hope, Miss Alexandra,” Encik Ismail said, “you will continue to do what you do to remind people what Malaysia is all about. Writing is a noble profession. I am happy there are people like you who appreciate what I did. Do you know I still keep the envelope you used to send me the article?”
That phone call reminded me of the original purpose of my writing journey, why I quit my high-paying corporate job to write for a living in the first place. It’s so important to remember the raison d’etre, the why of what you do. You never know when it will steer you through your most challenging periods.
Wanna read the whole story? It’s here:
3) Time management
One of the first oh-no-why-didn’t-anybody-warn-me realizations that hit you when you go it alone is you become CEO, salesman, debt collector, and janitor rolled into one. In the early years, I was running around like a headless chicken but in the last couple of years, friends have been asking me – eh, didn’t you tell us your workload is increasing but how come you seem to have more time to watch movies, go on dates, travelling etc?
Well, the secret is in managing your time more efficiently. I know I can’t do everything on my own, so here are two strategies I swear by:
Capture them: I rely heavily on digital tools so important tasks and appointments don’t fall through the cracks. Google calendar tracks my appointments and deadlines, while Evernote gets my vote for the most nimble app to jot down ideas that occur to me while I’m on the road. That way, I have a ever-ready pool of ideas (something editors love!) without having to whip out my laptop on the bus or lrt!
Outsourcing: I am a big fan of farming out unsexy tasks and I’m super thankful that Malaysia is becoming a thriving marketplace of services apps. I outsource everything from grocery delivery to ride-hailing to housekeeping (I hope my mum doesn’t read this!). Outsourcing has saved me so much time, not to mention spared me a tremendous amount of pain, that I’m now ready to move to the next level: invoicing. Recently, a friend introduced me to Invoice2go. Not only does its interface look like a breeze to use, it’s got a feature that automatically generates charts and reports – meaning I can easily monitor my business performance and drill down who owes me money. Now that’s definitely a feature any freelancer would love!
I hope that some of you will find this helpful. Any feedback, tips and stories are welcome at email@example.com
Happy freelancing 🙂by