As many of you know, I just announced that I am quitting my job and becoming a full-time freelance writer. This means that I have a lot to do and the first thing on my list is to organize my life so that I can run a successful business as a freelancer and begin my career with little stress.
Even though I have a lot to do when it comes to organizing my life, I am so excited but oddly, I’m not that nervous. It may be because I do know that I will have a small income when I begin my full-time freelancing career on June 1. Thankfully, the website that I currently freelance for, Thenextfamily.com, has offered me a paid internship and will continue to pay me for the articles that I already write for them per month. In addition, the company that I work for now has allowed me to become an independent contractor which means that there is a possibility of extra funds there. So…yay! I will be able to at least pay my student loans. Score!
Having said that, June 1st is not too far off in the distance and I want to be prepared. So, I have been organizing my life along with preparing for my move back to Texas (not the least stressful time of my life). A friend of mine requested this post; she was interested in how I am organizing myself for my career change, how I prioritize my work flow and achieve my goals, and tips on how I get everything done that I do in my life. These three things will be my focus, so let’s get started.
Organizing my life for my career change.
- You have to organize your files no matter what kind of person you are.
I’ve heard some people say that they work better just hopping from one thing to another. Other people are crazy when it comes to their planners. Since my job will consist of working with multiple clients a month, I had to prepare for that. For my business, I have to have copies of every contract, every proposal, every job instruction, every receipt, and every payment not only for legal purposes and making sure I get paid, but also for those dreaded taxes. So I went the binder route.
So far, there are three binders. One binder is all the information that I need to be an independent contractor for the company that I work for now. The second binder is my freelance writing binder. This includes a calendar at the very beginning, tabs for my contracts, templates and forms for clients, invoices, a personal tab for the website I work for now, and 12 months of tabs that I will use to put invoices in for every month.
The last binder is my tax binder. I’m still working to understand how to do my taxes as a freelancer but from what I understand, I can write off many things that involve my business as a writer and contractor. I have a tab for my writing, my art, my photography, my trip to Ireland, my rent and bills…just so much!
By having these binders, it will make me file everything away so that I have what I need on hand immediately. It will also make it easier on my CPA during tax season.
So figure out what kind of organization you need for your life. It probably won’t be this intense. It may just be a planner. One person who saw my binders was surprised because they thought that as someone from the technology generation, I would be more inclined to put everything online or on my computer. I do have copies in folders online and on my computer for back up, but I’m more of a touch and feel kind of person and it is just quicker for me to have a binder to jump through.
- Daily list or schedule.
I’m a list kind of a person. Usually I will write a list of things to do on a sticky pad and then make sure I complete that list by the end of the week. That is not going to work anymore. If I want to maximize my time, I have to maintain a calendar, hence the calendar at the front of my freelance binder. I will just have to think in terms of lists per day and will have to make myself complete those list. Even though I don’t like planners or calendars, they are essential to keeping me on task.
If you don’t want a small planner, consider a large calendar on your wall. I used to create a weekly calendar by writing on my glass closet mirror with a dry-erase pen. This was very helpful for a while but I stopped because I feared that I was staining the glass with my cheap markers.
- Organize your computer folders.
I cannot tell you how amazing it felt to clean out my desktop and my documents folder. Before this weekend, I probably had twenty folders in my “My Documents” file on my computer. That was insane. So I deleted everything I did not need and then combined different folders under a single unifying name. For instance, I had at least four folders that contained four different novels in various progress, so I combined them under a single folder of “Novels.”
Now I have only seven folders, hallelujah!
In addition to the folders on my computer, I knew that I needed to organize the folders on my Google drive and my e-mail. First, I uploaded important documents on my Google drive for backup and then I created various folders to house these documents. Always, always have backups online!
- Consider your e-mail.
Organizing my e-mail involved a few things. First I deleted some old e-mail folders, created a few new ones, and started moving everything around where I needed it. Secondly and most importantly, I had to consider which e-mail I wanted to give to possible clients. My main e-mail address is a combination of my first and middle name and some numbers. How did I want a client to remember me? By my first and middle name or by my first and last name (which is the name I use on my articles and for all my social media sites)? I went with the second one.
But how was I going to change my e-mail. I already had three e-mail addresses! I didn’t relish the thought of creating another one…but that is what I had to do, sort of. So the website I wrote for created me an e-mail that I would use when speaking with their clients. Luckily, I was able to connect it to my mobile e-mail system so I can receive and reply to messages in just one place.
Then this week, my IT guy from work reminded me about an amazing option that I have with my website domain. The domain that I bought for my blog, Imconstantlysearching.com, comes with five e-mail set ups! So I created an e-mail, email@example.com (super long but what can I do?) that I will use with all my future clients. The best thing about it is that it uses my name and my blog site so that clients will always associate the two together. And it also forwards to my main personal e-mail so I can just e-mail from there without having to sign on to another e-mail platform. Thank you, IT guy!
I highly suggest that you change your e-mail to your name if you are planning to be in any type of business where you need someone to know your name and your product (blogger, writer, editor, artist, graphic designer, photographer, etc.).
- Always take notes.
I could be in a bathroom washing my hands at a bar and suddenly be hit by an amazing idea that I have for my website, a blog posting, or maybe some girl next to me just told me about a cool start-up that I should pitch some articles to. So what do I do? Some people store the information in the back of their mind and hope that they will remember later. I’ve done this and it doesn’t work.
There is no need for me not to make a note of anything that I need to remember in my phone. So that’s what I’m doing. Sometimes, photos are good tools for taking notes. If I read an article on Facebook that gives me an idea about an article I could write, I will take a screenshot and store it for later. Just a quick, snap, snap, and it is saved for me to check out later, put in my calendar, and go after.
For those with Pinterest, utilize it! Find an article that you want to reference later, pin it to a board so that you can look at it later.
- Always have a business card.
There have been so many times that I was in a situation where someone was interested in my art or knew someone with a blog that I could write for and I didn’t have a business card. That is unacceptable. No matter what your profession is, even if you are a student, I suggest that you always have a business card. I use Vista Print to order my cards and have always been satisfied whether I used their templates or created my own for print. They always have deals and discounts and provide great shipping.
Also, make sure you have a business card holder! I used to put business cards in my wallet and I was so embarrassed to give them away because they’d get dirty or bent. Be professional, buy the dang business card holder for $5.
Lastly, a little tip when it comes to your business card and the title that you put on there. Put the title that you want to be. Now, I’m not saying that you lie outright. If you work in a mailroom, don’t write that you are the CEO of that company. That’s just insane. What I’m saying is, if you just bought a turn table and you’ve only been hired to play at your cousin’s Sweet 16, but you really want to become a successful DJ, then make your title as a DJ. Does that make sense?
Take me as an example. I included “Photographer” as one of my titles. I’ve only been doing “photography” since December and my portfolio isn’t that great, however, I do take most all of the photos that I include on my blog and for my travel articles, I can provide photos to the places that I have travelled to, so technically I’m a photographer. I’m not the best, but by putting it on my business card, I will work toward becoming better. Empower yourself.
- Clean up all of your social media sites.
This is an especially important tip for anyone looking for a job through social media or who uses social media for their job: update your social media site every few months (if not weeks).
So this is what I did: First, I changed all of my social media sites to have the same name @alextemblador or /alextemblador. That makes me more searchable which is what I wanted. Second, I updated all of my “About Me” sections and included a link to my blog, included my other social media handles, and made sure to include the following words (or variation of them) “writer,” “travel,” “photography,” “artist” so that people could search and find me under those titles.
Third, I went through all of my social media sites and made sure that they were updated with the correct information and were displaying how I wanted them to display to the public.
I also couldn’t forget about LinkedIn and Indeed.com, the sites I use most often in finding new clients to write for. It’s pertinent that these are always in tip-top shape for my clients. Now, if you go on my social media sites and find a discrepancy, please know that I am still updating them and making changes. This is a somewhat long process but it is essential in making sure that clients can find me and that I drive traffic to my blog.
- Invest in all of the tools that you will need to succeed.
Starting my own business will come with some expenses. I’ve already mentioned the binders, the dividers, and the calendar that I bought. That ran up to about $50 (if only there was a Wal-Mart near…).
I also have to buy a wireless keyboard, mouse, and number pad so that I can do the contract work with my current job easily. Then last week, my Trend Software Protection Plan expired and I had to renew that. I haven’t even started my freelancing career and I’m already close to having spent $200.
I could have saved on the binders, dividers, and calendar if I had waited to return to Texas, but I needed to be ready before I arrived. I also could save on the keyboard, mouse, and number pad if I didn’t buy well-made types. But this is my business and this is something that I will need to succeed so I’m okay with shoveling out a few bucks to be prepared.
Find out what tools you will need to organize your life or prepare for a career change and invest in your future.
CHECK OUT PART 2 OF THIS BLOG: COMING SOON!