Week 3: Rome wasn’t built in a day – Ongoing post schedule and topics

11 Oct

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So now that I’m beyond the initial set-up stage of starting my freelance business I need to concentrate 99% of my time to activation and make sure that my plans pan out the way I hope. This means there are less day-to day tasks to take care of and less time to take to discuss them, but I’m keen to use this blog to talk about the areas of work I produce as well as any particular trials or discoveries I have along the way so from here on in I’m going to try to plan my post topics to give me a structure to keep to. This should make it easier for me to fit in to the working week and also allow me to cover off the areas I think are important to the work I do. It should also make sure I manage to make at least one post a week to keep content fresh and up to date.

So, without further ado – over the next few months I’ll be posting along the lines of the following:

Topics:

  • Crowd funding – client recently gave me an update about sourcing funding for the next stage of their project and explained they needed to raise their required funding by increasing the marketing budget just to meet the ‘minimum investment’ requirement of £1m.  Seemed absurd, and hard to see how it would benefit the investor unless they were unlikely to invest in such a business anyway – in which case it would be a complete waste of time for all concerned. But this got me thinking about alternatives, specifically crowd-funding and the possibility of bypassing the banks altogether. Great way of pushing forward with nothing but an idea and gauging interest as you go.
  • Making your YouTube channel a success
  • Engaging with your Facebook community
  • Developing a Facebook community from scratch
  • Using social media to it’s strengths – tailored multi-channel strategies

Series ideas:

  • How-to … …
    • Set-up a : … … facebook page/twitter/youtube channel/flickr/blog
    • get best … … results on … … [as above]
    • achieve XX in just XX days
    • develop your own brand
    • experiment with logo
  • 5 minute makeover: facebook page/twitter/youtube channel/LinkedIn/website/blog
  • Top five: aggregators/feed burners/monitoring packages/iPhone apps for freelancers
  • Freelance advice from … accountants/project managers/designers/UX architects/animators/programmers/musicians/performers

Week 2: The 5 stages of starting a business (large or small)

3 Oct

Starting any business, large or small, there will always be a certain number of phases involved. I’ve broken this down in to five periods of activity which need a subtle change in focus/mindset to ensure things work out well.

  • Stage one: ideas
  • Stage two: set-up – building blocks for success (planning and anticipation)
  • Stage three: activation – work ethic and focus
  • Stage four: fruition – recognising success
  • Stage five: management – maintaining momentum

Stage one: ideas

What are you going to do, what can you offer? And more importantly who would want that offering, where is the income going to come from? This is a phase I hovered on for quite a while. I need clients if I can generate income from my marketing expertise, but in order to get clients I need to a) poach previous clients from old roles (something I’m contractually obliged to leave well alone for at least six months) or b) enlist a third party to market my experience to their contacts (i.e. recruitment consultants). It feels like a bit of a chicken and egg situation, certainly at the time when I knew I would need two months notice before I would be a free agent.

I did my research, looking at job boards and discussing the freelance market with consultants and friends to determine whether the work was there for me to make a living. It was apparently and I discovered that I could charge slightly less than the usual amount for an Account Director, take a week off every month and still earn more than I was earning in my full-time position. Freelance jobs appeared to become available with only 1 or 2 weeks notice so there was very little chance I would be able to plan a contract to start immediately but the figures were appealing so I took the plunge. And I instantly felt better for it – in control, master of my own destiny, confident in my knowledge and experience. And excited! For the first time in a long while I was excited about not knowing what was next. The idea was plausible, the wares were worthy of income and the market was open to newcomers.

Stage two: set-up

All the advice is slightly conflicting but there were things for me to prepare nevertheless. I needed to set up a company, but this isn’t something I wanted to do straight away – not until I had a contract lined up. Instead I researched exactly how this needed to work and found that actually you can set up a company in a day and receive all the documentation through email for only £15.00 – to add to this I also met with a few different accountants to discuss what needed to be done and what could be offered. Some were local, some were not so local, some were large corporate machines and others were small practices with just a couple of employees. All were very similar, although two of them shone through with an assured knowledge of the business I was setting up and how I should go about it.

One was local and very experienced, but I suspected he would was less excited about my business than he made out. I also got the impression I would be the smallest of a very wide pool of clients and might not get the attention I was hoping for. On the other hand, he seemed a very safe pair of hands and was keen help by providing me with a VAT registration form instead of pushing me to let him set up the company for me.

The second front-runner was younger, closer to my age. Clearly a one-man band and based in Surrey so not local, he was honest and upfront about what he could offer from a comparative distance and was very forthcoming with additional info and expertise about the company set up process. Again, he offered the option of setting up for me but recommended it wasn’t really necessary and instead provided some good advice about the splitting the share capital – something which may/may not be useful in the future but at least allows some flexibility if the company needs to evolve.

The local accountant was by far the most expensive – almost double the price – but the cheaper Surrey-based option was much more up to date than some of the more established and pricier local options who seemed to have very little idea about the type of business I was setting up, let alone the technology of digital communications and how it can contribute to marketing/pr.

The final element of setting-up and getting my building blocks in order (lining up my dominos) was to reach out to recruitment consultants and begin to establish legitimate relationships so I became more than just a prospective CV on a list. I wanted to make sure consultants could remember me for my personality and experience but also for the considered way I discuss client-needs and the way we could work together. This has been more successful with some than with others but I feel I now have five or six engaged representatives who are keen to help find me contract work.

Stage three: activation

Perhaps the hardest, least rewarding phase, activation is the nuts and bolts of graft. This is where I’ve had to stop talking about what I’m going to do and do it. My job has switched from marketeer and digital comms to professional job hunter. It needs perseverance and discipline to avoid the ever nagging sensation that things are taking too long instead of working out the way you had hoped. Particularly now, in Autumn, when the air has turned cold and the streets are grey and unfriendly. The hardest thing to do is be dogged in you pursuit of achieving what you set out to achieve. I’m not necessarily talking about a successful and healthy freelance business with a thriving client-base and an opportunity to expand to a niche agency – I’m talking about the small steps needed to get there, winning a contract, impressing at an interview and securing that first month or two in fees. Covering bills and rent and allowing focus away from the necessities of life and towards the goals and objectives you wanted to head for.

I’m a week and a bit in and opportunities appear and fade quicker than you can say ‘is that actually a perm role?’ so I’m discovering quickly that the world is only as happy and chirpy as you make it. The more positive you can be in your approach then the more positive people are lively to be in their response.

Stages four (fruition) and five (management) are yet to come (and hopefully not too far off!) so I’ll be covering them as soon as I arrive but for the time-being it’s head down, teeth gritted and eyes narrowed as I take the strain and go get my sweat on.

To be continued…

Day 5: Friday fix-up

28 Sep

OK, so this is my last post this week – the first week of my freelance life.I’ve managed to do an incredible amount but still inevitably, there are certain things which haven’t been finished… and others which haven’t even been started yet! It’s amazing how quickly the time just disappears, meaning it’s ever more important to plan the tasks you want to complete and focus on each of them intensively, allowing some relax time either side or between.

This week I’ve managed to

  • Arrange meet ups with old colleagues
  • Submit my CV to job monster
  • Made contact with Major Players and Cogs recruitment consultants
  • Reached out to in-house HR directors offering ‘relevant’ services – and also messaged any recruitment consultants who have been in touch over the past year
  • Mapped out my experience, all past clients, work completed and which sector it relates to
  • Tailored my LinkedIn headline and assessed how others have described themselves

So today (and for the beginnning of next week) there are  two main areas which need to get wrapped up.

  1. LinkedIn profile – update the Summary section to include as many keywords as possible
  2. Portfolio – piece together a visual portfolio, imagery-only for the time-being but can be updated to a case study format later on if time

Not far off now so best get to it.

Day 4: The unusual urge to do housework

27 Sep

Today came the first twitchings of cabin-fever.
The fourth day of the same four walls with very few people to talk to can get kind of dull kind of quickly and as a result I’ve found myself looking around for anything and everything to do that isn’t work-related. Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been whiling away the hours on FIFA (yet…) but instead I’ve found myself feeling ever more responsible for the general cleanliness of the flat. A clear desk equals a clear mind and all that… so that must extend to the wider one-bed-flat environment, surely. So I’ve made it an earnest part of my daily to-do list (not mentioned on here of course because there are better things to talk about) and set about catching up with laundry, taking care of any washing up that needs doing, general movement of clutter from one corner to another in the name of neatness, and most impressively cleaning the bathroom!

Trouble is, the latter, no matter how proud and mature it’s made me feel, has left me with a resounding sting of bleach in my nostrils and an ache in my head which feels like the moon itself is gravitationally balanced above my frontal lobe. Not painful, just a gentle draping of heavy fatigue, a fog which seems intent on stopping even the simplest of tasks. But I will not give in! There must be a way to overcome!

Motivational techniques are all over the place for just this type of predicament – so I’ve rounded up a few of the best:

  • Make a List
    Absolutely essential- without lists I wouldn’t have a clue what I was trying to achieve! Now more than ever, my list of tasks helps me keep focus on what it is that I need to accomplish and what I need to move on to next.
  • Set Manageable Deadlines
    The key word here being manageable – a to-do list is one thing but if you’re trying to conquer a small nation in a day you’re going to cause nothing but stress and unnecessary pressure. Equally, if you’re not feeling at your best, it’s not going to make you feel any better to see that you need to go full throttle to have even the slightest hope of completing your objectives. Decide what can and can’t be done today, base it on a realistic assessment of how much you can achieve, and the lower priority tasks can wait for tomorrow.
  • Take Frequent Breaks
    Leave the house – get some fresh air! Don’t let the fumes of bleach and window cleaner riddle your mind with doubt and confusion…
    Fresh air and the sights and sounds of civilisation can instantly clear the cobwebs away. Pop out for a coffee, or just a walk around the block to the highstreet – anywhere outdoors, around people and away from the laptop.
  • Reward Your Efforts
    Plan your breaks as rewards and help make sure you tick items off the list. You may need a break but aware that if you come back in an hour only to find that you really really didn’t do anything in the morning it’s not going to be the most inspiring thing in the world. So pick the smallest/easiest thing on the list and make sure you don’t let yourself out until it’s done.

Managed to find some inspiration and guidance on this from www.wahm.com (despite not being a ‘mom’).

How to draft your LinkedIn profile – how, what, why?

27 Sep

So I’ve looked about and surveyed the landscape and I’ve managed to answer the questions I wanted to think about yesterday.

  • Are they all CV-based?
    Yes, mainly – it’s all about making the facts as easily digestible as possible, clear, concise and friendly in tone.
  • Do they all follow the same format?
    Some have opened their summary as more of a cover letter or an ‘introduction at a networking event’, as one expert put it, but others just try to summarise their history.
  • Are they focussed on historical detail or do they tell a wider story? If so, how do they go about this?
    There’s a wider story which needs to be told. It needs to reflect the evolution of your career and your motivations going forward.
  • What’s your wider story? And what assets do you need to create to help tell that story – do you have everything you need?
    Several strands of expertise, developed in layers as my role has developed. A project portfolio would be useful, possibly as a slideshare  presentation or to include a previous showreel video.
  • How do others use their profile picture? How could you improve yours?
    Well-lit, smiling, natural and visible, so the majority of the image is filled with their face – people want to be able to see what you look like.

As a result – the one area which seems to a) allow creative flare (something which may or may not actually help) and b) makes the most impact is the use of the summary area and the way in which you describe yourself.

  • Your Professional Headline…
    • This is a snapshot of who you are, what motivates you and what you are looking for.
    • The headline should also include your unique talent and be very specific to you. Use the “|” symbol on your keyboard to separate different parts of your headline.
      i.e. Independent digital consultant | Freelance Account Director | Digital project manager | Social media strategist
    • Change your headline every few weeks to keep it fresh and remember to use plenty of keywords.
  • Your Summary…
    • This is just as important as your headline, if not more so.
    • A LinkedIn summary is not the same as a CV summary. The summary should encapsulate the following:
      • Who you really are and your passions
      • Your top career achievements
      • Goals you would like to achieve
      • A re-iteration of what you are currently looking for
      • Explain what you could add to a company
      • Explain how and why people should engage with you (include a call to action)
    • Try to keep your profile in under 150 words
    • Try to write in first person but without pronouns (I, we, they) etc.
    • In the specialties section you are able to highlight the skills that you excel in.
  • Experience…
    • This is the historical bit – straight from your CV. Bullet points can help with readability.
    • Linking to your website or blog (if you have one).
    • If you go to options on links and select “other” you can type the name in manually so it doesn’t have to read like a url.
  • Add applications…
    • If you have a blog (particularly WordPress!), then add the application so that it feeds through to your profile. This is a great way to demonstrate expertise, adding personality and driving traffic through to your blog.
    • The Slideshare app lets you feed through a presentation – perfect for portfolio case studies, or it can even be a video or showreel.

These can be taken care of in stages, i.e. update your headline on day one while you’re compiling your experience, post your experience while you spend some time on your summary and then review your experience to include keywords relevant keywords wherever possible. The final ingredient should be the supplementary info like the portfolio case studies to be hooked up via Slideshare.

Once all of the above are in place you should be getting more attention through natural searches on LinkedIn so anyone who’s looking for your skill-set or types of experience should be getting the right signals to get in touch.

If you want to take it to the next level, there are other areas to look at developing, like recommendations and group activity. You can almost guarantee a few genuine recommendations from past colleagues/clients if you begin to reach out and build relationships. Send out at least one recommendation a week to friends, ex-colleagues, any one of your contacts. Be nice, be truthful and soon enough you’ll find others reciprocate. You don’t need to ask for a recommendation back (this can be a bit pushy), you’ll just start getting them anyway.

Groups are another area where you can reach out and connect with people in a public way. Show the topics you have knowledge in by joining relevant groups and responding to questions or discussions. If your answers are appreciated by other group members then you earn green stars which show up on your profile and certify that you have expert knowledge in that area.

For some additional tips and direction for improving your LinkedIn profile, I’ve found the following pretty useful: CV Centre – creating the perfect profile.

Day 3: The LinkedIn to-do list

26 Sep

Today’s a simple one. LinkedIn.
Redraft, revamp and thoroughly update to reflect the who what where’s of today.

Yesterday I mapped out the SMW events I’m planning to tune in to – although I might not watch all of them or it’s about 70 per cent of the day gone! – and identified Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign as the main areas I want to learn. Over the next few weeks I should be able to run through some starter tutorials and begin to experiment and develop my own basic skills. Before you know it I’ll be building a brand!

I’ve also been in touch with some old friends from my previous life so at some point in the next week there should be a conversation over coffee about what they’re up to and if they’re likely to find themselves overstretched at any point and in need of freelance back-up.

Today’s task though is LinkedIn and breaks down to a few stages – most of which will help improve your CV (or at least allow you to tailor it more quickly for specific opportunities):

  • List all client experience, including their primary and secondary sectors ans the type of work done
  • Establish key sectors and the roles in which you have most experience
  • Review other LinkedIn profiles:
    • Are they all CV-based?
    • Do they all follow the same format?
    • Are they focussed on historical detail or do they tell a wider story? If so, how do they go about this?
    • What’s your wider story? And what assets do you need to create to help tell that story – do you have everything you need?
    • How do others use their profile picture? How could you improve yours?
  • What groups are you a member of? Are you active? Should you be?
  • What groups should you now join? Do you want to contribute to these or just monitor?

 

Day 2: The to-do list

25 Sep

Today, I will mostly be doing…
All of those things I didn’t manage to fit in to yesterday!

So, yesterday became a bit of a blog day, setting up and drafting posts, planning for the week ahead; it all whittled away the hours. Today in contrast is a ‘loose ends’ day so the smaller next-step tasks can all fit in to this although  two things are set to dominate:

  1. Social Media Week – it’s massive! It’s got an expiry date. And it’s being streamed online. It’s already taken me the morning to look through everything that’s going on and decide what’s hot and what’s not but on top of that there are actually a fair few live-streamed events which I can access from home (which is a good thing because everything which looks interesting was booked up a while back).
  2. My teach-yourself series – well worth extending my skillset while I have some time on my hands and definitely keen to work through brand development, wireframing and design of my new site without having to contract out to anyone. Which means it’s time to teach myself some Photoshop, etc. I’ve got plenty of experience on the wireframe front so InDesign shouldn’t be too much of a problem (although I’ve mostly used Visio) but the more elaborate design techniques need a real boost.
  3. Updating my LinkedIn profile – need a massive revamp here. Historically it’s just been a library of past roles, clients, projects and achievements… one long list. An ultra-detailed CV. I’m intending to turn it in to a professional shop window – something that explains what I do and who I am in simple terms, uncluttered, well-structured and full of key details wherever possible. This could take a fair amount of time to pull together presentations/portfolios for the key areas of my work but the initial profile framework can be set up pretty quickly and all my current information can at least be presented in a more digestible way.

Plenty to be getting on with then – but first, time to tie up those loose ends:

  • Arrange meet ups with old colleagues – potential work available
  • Submit CVs to job boards (monster, etc)
  • Make contact with Major Players and Cogs recruitment consultants.
  • Reach out to in-house HR directors offering ‘relevant’ services – arrange coffee where possible

Tally ho!

#SMWLDN – Social Media Week distractions

25 Sep

Social Media Week is doing it’s best to distract me – particularly the We Are Social FMCG panel, very interesting to hear how social’s sold in to senior management and how they prove their worth. Reassuring to know that they’re just doing their best the same way we all are and it’s a matter of audience =  worth.

My main focus this morning has been #SMWLDN, watching live feeds and reviewing upcoming events. Have to say there aren’t a great many still available which appeal but it’s great to see so many options available on live feed. Here’s my pick of the bunch for the week:

So that’s my week planed out – now I just need to make sure I get everything else done in and around them!

Day 1: The to-do list

24 Sep

Every day I’ll be keeping myself in check with a to-do list. Not only is this going to make me work towards achieving my goal, it’ll make sure i’ve got something to focus on in the meantime. So, first up – the to-do list of all to-do lists:

  • Set up a blog so I can keep track of my to-do lists
  • Publish first post and list out what I want to achieve in the first day or two
  • Check in with existing recruitment consultants: Computer People, 6 Degrees Talent, Salt, Source, Futureheads
  • Sign up for free events in the short-term future – potential networking + new information/views always welcome
  • Arrange meet ups with old colleagues – potential work available
  • UPDATE LINKEDIN PROFILE
  • Submit CVs to job boards (monster, etc)
  • Make contact with Major Players and Cogs recruitment consultants.
  • Reach out to in-house HR directors offering ‘relevant’ services – arrange coffee where possible
  • Complete portfolio and split in to sectors (need to print and buy nice folder to present them in)
  • Create very quick personal website (if poss – maybe quicker/better to begin work on wider web-design/build research??)

Best crack on then.

A brief history…

24 Sep

First things first then – a potted history of what I’ve been and where… possibly the only time I want to talk about ‘past experiences’ – from this post onwards, it’s all about finding my feet and exploring the unknown!

My early career began in PR, based in London working on airline clients and five star hotels – the travel industry was a great introduction to the more serious side corporate reputation and brand communications. I was quickly versed in providing excellent client services. I soon found myself with the opportunity to live and work in Abu Dhabi, the lesser know Emirate of the UAE at the time, where I set up an office and began to take more interest in the the digital side of communications and the possibilities it presented. Having introduced Middle Eastern clients to media centres and other online tools for agency-/stakeholder-management I returned to London to join a fast-growing digital team (ranked in the top five UK agencies – PR Week).

My role quickly grew and evolved from Account Exec to Manager to Account Director and with it ‘digital PR’ slowly but surely became ‘social media’ and ‘content creation’. ‘Content creation’ developed (quite literally) in to ‘website development’ and ‘client handling’ quickly became ‘project management’ with an emphasis on timeliness and quality. I’ve managed online PR campaigns, iPhone app-launches, banner ad delivery, website design and development as well as video and animation work, from initial ideas to storyboarding to finale delivery and after six years I’m looking for the next challenge.

I’m a qualified project manager, but I offer more than that – I can advise on IA, UX and help sculpt the design aesthetic. I’m an experienced social media community manager/strategist, particularly in the travel industry, but I can add to that with creative content ideas and a wider comms strategy to incorporate multi-channel campaigns. I’m a content producer, but my comms background gives me insight in to the final use and delivery of that content which allows every aspect to be tailored specifically.

I’m a hybrid of complimentary skills which each support the other. I’m a hybrid, and as a freelance digital consultant that gives me a unique position, a position which offers me increased earning potential and an increased likelihood of work. I’m a hybrid, and this is my blog.