Artisan Blog

I'd Love to, But I Can't: 6 Tips for Saying No

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'd Love to, But I Can't: 6 Tips for Saying No



Being a freelancer brings many benefits especially the opportunity to control your work/life balance. Success breeds success and eventually you may find yourself unable to take on any more clients without either the work or the life suffering. Here are some tips on saying no to new work without burning a bridge with a potential client:

  1. Don’t give an excuse—As tempting as it is to claim another commitment and make it specific, it could be an opening for negotiation that you don’t want. Just not being able to fit it in is fine.
  2. Say thank you—Even if you can’t or don’t want to take on a particular project, it’s nice to be asked. Don’t let “thank yous” fall through the cracks.
  3. Be firm—Some clients will be extra persistent and if they get a feeling that you are not sure, they will keep asking, especially if they are looking for spec or pro bono work. After all, they really need someone to say yes. Stick to your guns.
  4. Stay on a scheduleDetailed planning is a big help in deciding whether to say yes or no to a project so make sure you have planned out the next month ahead of time. It’s much easier to know whether you have an open 10 hours if you know where the rest of your time will be spent.
  5. Refer a friend—A great referral can get you a lifelong client if it works out. Don’t be afraid to send the project to a talented friend you trust.
  6. Not now, but soon—If you just have too much on your plate right now, a delay might make all the difference. If you really want to do the project, see if you can schedule it for the near future.
At the beginning of your time as a freelancer, it is easy to say yes to too many projects, but the longer you freelance, the easier these questions are to answer. You have a better idea of how many projects you can handle in how short a time and what workload is too much for you to do your very best work. And don’t forget to schedule a day off now and then!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Artisan Founder Jamie Douraghy on Time Management

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Artisan Founder Jamie Douraghy on Time Management



Before he left for Turkey to participate in the Entrepreneurs' Organization Istanbul University this month, Jamie Douraghy, Founder of Artisan Creative, gave an interview to Map Consulting on how their time management techniques have helped our business grow and prosper as well as given him more time to pursue his personal goals and those of his employees.  Enjoy!


Having everyone at Artisan, top to bottom, on the same system of goals and accountability has freed Jamie and the rest of the team up to work more productively and achieve a better work/life balance. We all appreciate it!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Reflections: Meditation and Time Management

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reflections: Meditation and Time Management



If you’re at all like me, you’ve got a lot going on every day, all day long. You’re switching tasks, maybe even switching clients and projects from hour to hour if you’re lucky, or even more often. Those kind of days can be very productive, especially if you make a schedule and stick to it, but a recent study found that there was another way to make your busy days go more smoothly: meditation.

Professor David Levy at the Information School at the University of Washington, who has many years of experience using meditation in his own life, wanted to find out whether meditation had any value to the workplace. Three groups of subjects were used: one group was trained in meditation techniques for eight weeks; another group was given eight weeks of body relaxation training; the control group was not trained at the beginning of the eight weeks, but received the same training as the other groups at the end of the time.

Each group was given a difficult multitasking test before and after the experimental period.

The group trained in meditation not only were able to focus longer without being distracted, they reported lower stress levels as well. The other two groups reported no reduction in stress until that third group received their meditation training. Then their stress levels were reduced.

Today’s economy has made a stressful, multitasking day a common experience for ever more workers and companies are beginning to realize that their talent will work more efficiently, be less likely to burn out and be more creative if they are feeling less stress and some are even offering training in mindful meditation already.

Let’s do an experiment.

Stop. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Feel better? 

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Tax Tips for Freelancers—For Next Year!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tax Tips for Freelancers—For Next Year!

 

Although you still have until midnight tonight to file your taxes (or an extension), it is never too early to think about how to handle your taxes better next year.


As we are neither tax professionals nor claim to be so, but rather a community of freelancers and freelance placement specialists - we can only recommend the following tips to help keep our freelance talent organized for Tax Time 2013:

Track your mileage - Especially if you drive to pick up work or deliver it to your clients, keep a record of trips back and forth. You can’t count commuting miles, but if you work offsite, mileage to and from meetings can add up to a hefty sum.

 

Create a dedicated office space - You can only take a home office deduction if your space is used exclusively for work. But it doesn’t take a lot of space to count as a home office. Dedicating a small area of your home to work can help with deductions for part of your rent and utilities expenses.

 

Keep your Receipts - Depending on the nature of your business, there are often a number of deductions you can make for things like Equipment, Advertising or Entertainment Expenses.  Save your receipts and work with a tax professional to help you determine what can actually be written off as part of your business.

 

Save some money - Depending on your situation - you may end up owing some tax next spring.  You don’t want it to be a surprise. Therefore, it's always best to put a bit of each paycheck into a seperate account - just for tax payments in the following year.  Worse case, if you have nothing to pay - you can always give yourself a refund!

 

Make a list - If you work for a lot of different clients over the course of the year, it’s a good idea to keep a list of each client, their contact information and how much you made while working for them.  There are a number of invoicing programs out there to assist with this as well.  NOTE: If you go over $600 for any one client, they should send you a 1099 in January 2013.  This list can help you follow up with any late documentation come Feb or March.


These are just some things that have helped my family at tax time. Do you have any great tips? We would love to hear them in the comments!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


How to Say “Yes” Without Driving Yourself Crazy

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Say “Yes” Without Driving Yourself Crazy

 

Creatives, your skills are in high demand by many organizations, businesses and individuals. Sometimes even by friends—if they need a website, advertising copy, graphics or other creative work produced.

Last Sunday a dear friend asked me if I could design a website for his new business. He doesn’t have a lot of money to spend and thinks of me as someone who could provide a good product. I’m very glad he has confidence in my abilities, and as much as I would like to help him, I don’t have time to do his project unless I take time away from something else that pays better.

When I do have time to add a project, however, sometimes I go ahead and say “Yes!” - even if there’s little or no monetary reward. What are the factors that help me decide?

  1. Passion—If the project is for a cause in which I believe strongly, I will carve out the time. Volunteering our skills (or offering them for much less than market rate) for worthy causes is personally fulfilling and adds value to any project.
  2. Career Development—I will probably say "yes" if I think that I will learn something new from the project, meet or work with someone in my field who could be a good contact, gain a skill or client that could improve my resume or add to the strength of my portfolio. This type of work experience is also a great way to fill in gaps in your work history or get great references!
  3. Respect—It is always surprising to me how often volunteers are treated disrespectfully, as if they are only worth what they are being paid. Having worked as a professional with volunteers and as a volunteer with professionals, volunteers deserve more respect, not less. If you treat me respectfully, I am likely to help you out over and over again. Amazing how something that simple can create such loyalty.

Yes.  It is hard to say “no” to a friend without feeling guilty, I know. But if you have the time, don’t need the money and can think of some way that investment of time capital pays off for you, everyone can benefit from your talent!

Wendy Stackhouse, Artisan Creative


To Work or Not to Work, That is the Question: Freelancing over the Holidays

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

To Work or Not to Work, That is the Question: Freelancing over the Holidays

Photo by hartlandmartin via Flickr Creative Commons

If you are like me, you are busy with holiday preparations while still maintaining a busy freelance work routine. There are a lot of extra things to do this time of year: shopping, baking, social events, writing cards.

Even volunteer opportunities abound at this time of year, with everyone holding holiday fundraisers and toy drives.

It’s easy to look forward to some quiet time when everything closes down for a few days of family celebration, but for a freelancer, there’s no such thing as a paid holiday. It can be hard to relax when you know your income will be affected by your time off.

Here are some ways to handle taking time off without worry:
Plan Ahead
It might be too late for this year, but next year you can be mindful about putting some money aside so that you can take a couple of weeks off for the holidays.

Reach Out

If you want to take on some extra work or try to keep busy, get in touch with your clients and make sure they know you’re available to do last minute projects or pick up projects that have stalled because their regular staff is on vacation.

For creatives, now is a great time to come up with a new graphic design or image to put on a holiday ecard and send it out to your network!

Schedule Your Free Time

Everyone deserves a break this time of year, so carve out some specific time for yourself and quality time with your family and friends. If you look at your calendar and it says “Christmas Party, 7-11pm” you won’t feel guilty when you walk out the door!

Post-Date Some Blog Posts

If a holiday falls on a day when you would normally publish a blog post for yourself or a client, write a holiday-themed post in the days leading up to your day off and schedule it to post on the day you plan to be roasting chestnuts.

Here’s the most difficult task, though.

Don’t feel guilty!

If work slows down, try to think of it as a gift. Appreciate the precious time you have with your loved ones. Use it to play board games, cook together, spend time at home doing that you don’t normally have time for, but that don’t cost a lot. Walk around and see the holiday lights in your neighborhood. Think up projects for the new year. Watch old movies and drink lots of tea.

Everyone at Artisan Creative wishes you and yours a wonderful, relaxing and guilt-free holiday season!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Time Management Tips for Freelance Entrepreneurs

Friday, November 18, 2011

Time Management Tips for Freelance Entrepreneurs



“Freelance Entrepreneur” might sound like an oxymoron, but freelancing is entrepreneurship at its most basic. Entrepreneurship means taking risks with your income, your career, your security in the service of innovation. 

As a freelancer your capital isn’t money, it’s time.

As a Freelance Entrepreneur you offer your capital to others to help complete their projects. How you spend that capital is up to you. You choose what projects you want to work on, you choose with whom you work, and you choose when you want to do the work.

If you think of your time as capital, you can also think if it as an investment. Then it becomes very clear that your time needs to be managed well in order to make it grow. We would all like the time we have with our families or the time we spend pursuing our passions to be greater. The more successful our investments, the more rewards we will reap.

Here are some tips for managing your capital:
  1. Start with a plan. Whether you plan a week in advance, the night before for the next day or in the morning before you jump into the day’s work - plan your time. Although you need to be flexible—you never know when a client will call with an emergency—try to stick to the plan.

  2. Set goals for the day. You will never feel like you accomplished anything if you don’t know what it was you set out to accomplish.

  3. Set an ending time for work. You will be more productive if you know when you’re going to step away from the computer. Without an end time, there is a greater temptation to continue working on things you don’t need to and, therefore, never accomplish what you set out to do. 

  4. Take scheduled breaks. Walk away. Stretch. Look at something other than the screen. Go outside. When you plan out the day, plan your breaks too.

  5. Track your time. This is easy to overlook. If you set a specific amount of time to work on something – make sure you keep to that schedule. If you need more time – and have to push something else back – make up for it tomorrow. By knowing how much time you work on projects – you can also better manage your time on future projects that are similar in nature.
I’m not always good at following my own guidelines, but I’m resolved to try. When I plan my day and know that I spent enough time on each project, I don’t feel guilty when break time comes and I get to spend a relaxing evening with my family. And isn’t that the real reason we’re freelancers?

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Communication 101 for Freelancers

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Communication 101 for Freelancers



It’s World Communication Week (November 1-7) and a good time to think about the challenges of communications in today’s working environment. Many more people are working as freelancers and working offsite, presenting communication issues that don’t arise when everyone is working in the same office together.  

Some things to consider about communication as a freelancer:

Time Zone

If you are working offsite, you might be in a different time zone or even a different country from your client. Either one of you might have expectations of prompt responses to emails or calls which seem unreasonable to the other. I have one client in Central Time, which means he takes lunch right when I’m working. If I send him an urgent email, he won’t respond until it’s too late for me to make my deadline. I know I have to text him to get a quick answer. Talk to your client about your working hours and the best ways to communicate with each other.

Get it in Writing

Phone calls are great for saving time when exchanging small pieces of information or asking a question or two. However, having detailed instructions or answers in writing proves invaluable when you sit down to actually work on your project. An email can serve as your checklist, ensuring haven’t missed any important elements. Even when I have a meeting by phone with a client, I take notes and write them up clearly when it’s over. This might seem like a bit of extra work, but the wasted time over mistakes or having to clarify is much more significant.

Updates

Clients can get nervous if they haven’t heard from you in a while during your project. Even if you haven’t finished anything, regular updates, about what you have accomplished so far and what your next steps will be, are essential. For some clients – this means a morning and evening update. For other clients it might be every few days. Confirm with your client ahead of time how often you should be in touch. Services such as Basecamp can be a great tool for managing your project, timelines and updates.

Ask Questions

We all want our clients to feel like we “get it” right away and are off and running. But we’ve all delivered a project we thought was complete only to find that it needs significant reworking. Sometimes this is because the client doesn’t really know what he or she wants until they see it. But often, it is because we failed to ask key questions throughout the process. If in doubt, check it out!

Use Collaboration Technology

With the amount of technology out there to improve communication – there is really no excuse not to be better communicators. Skype and Chat services (AIM, iChat, etc) allow for instant, free communication. You can even share send and share small files. Services like Dropbox, box.net or Google Docs make it easy for you to share files with your clients and get their feedback, no matter what time or place you are working. Google Docs even allows you both to edit and track changes to your documents in real time. These tools are just another way to allow clients to monitor your pace of work and deliverables.

As we talked about last week, freelancing has a lot of good points: flexibility, choice, environment, independence. Successful freelancing, like any other work situations, thrives on good communication.

If you put some thought into the best ways to keep the lines of communication open, your freelancing relationships will not only bring you monetary rewards, but also more clients in the future.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Wendy has worked as a freelance singer, transcriptionist, legal assistant, writer, web designer, choral conductor and web content development instructor. Right now, she is freelancing full time for clients in recruiting, environmental services, public relations, web content and music, and will be teaching a workshop in Website Content Development next month. 



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