5 Ways to Know if Working Remotely Works for You

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016|

Telecommuting is quickly becoming less of a trend and more of the norm. In fact, 37% of U.S. workers say they’re done it! Part of this is the practicality of the modern workplace — for many positions, it’s not necessary to be in an office. And for many workers, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is preferable to a higher salary.

So, where would you like to work? At your home office, or on the sofa? What about in a co-working space or a coffee shop? You might think that telecommuting would make a great part of your daily work routine, but it takes a surprising amount of self-discipline, concentration, and effort. See if working remotely is right for you by asking these five questions:

  1. Can you communicate well online or via video chat? Interacting with a team in-person is very different from being online. You need multiple communications tools to connect. If you feel like email is the only way to get in touch, you need to shake it up and practice communicating with instant messaging, video conferences, and teamwork platforms like Slack and Asana. Get comfortable using these technologies, and know when it’s best to hop on the phone. One last thing: if you can’t be available when everyone else is, you’ll either have to work twice as hard to stay on top of what’s happening, or need to connect more often to stay abreast of changes.

  2. Are you able to initiate conversations and projects? You can’t be shy when you work remotely! Starting conversations with your co-workers or manager so you can get the ball rolling on projects is necessary. And if you’re a manager, it can be hard to be present and available when telecommuting. You’ll need to reach out to team members regularly, and set very clear goals and expectations, as well as offer support from afar.

  3. Can you be a great team player without seeing the team? Since you won’t be interacting with colleagues in the breakroom or over lunch, you need to think about how you reach out and connect to co-workers. This means having team calls to catch up, setting up video conferences to brainstorm ideas, or scheduling virtual lunch dates. You may also have to boost team engagement by recreating “water cooler” conversation. Ask about personal topics like vacation plans or what was on TV last night.

  4. Do you have a great task management system in place? Many telecommuters report they are just as productive as on-site employees, but poor management and engagement could mean telecommuting doesn’t work for a company — or for you! A lack of oversight can lead to major issues later. If you’re working as part of a team, talk to your manager about what work productivity really means, and how to prove it. If you’re a manager, make sure your team understands those goals, and hold them accountable. And if you struggle with personal responsibility, working remotely may not be the best option for you.

  5. Is it possible to still meet occasionally? Okay, the whole point of telecommuting…is to not go into the office! But if you’re working for a company that’s located in the same city as you, it can’t hurt to visit the office now and then. This way, you can review things like quarterly goals or evaluate projects with the whole team at once, and then get back to work. Think of it as a fun way to catch up with people, too! Try to schedule a happy hour or some kind of after work activity so you bond and get to know the people you’re working with online.

Flexible work hours bring a specific set of challenges, but also many rewards! The needs of working remotely vary from those of the traditional office, so as long as you keep in mind these ideas, you’ll be able to keep your team engaged and motivated.

How to Manage Multiple Clients at Once

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016|

Many freelancers work with several clients simultaneously. However, juggling a large number of projects for multiple clients can go from easily doable to overwhelming, very quickly! As tasks pop up, it’s up to you to have a secure workflow system to deliver quality work on time. Here are some tips on how to make sure you and your clients stay happy while you handle different and diverse tasks at once:

Keep your calendar up to date. Whether you’re extremely organized or not, a calendar is your armor in the front line of freelancing. Label important dates, or create a system for due dates, such as “urgent”, “important”, and “later”. This will help you stay on task with the most significant aspects of these projects first before moving on to other parts that can wait. You can even create a project-specific calendar and share it with your client.

Use a system that works. Management systems like Trello, BaseCamp, and Asana work for lots of people because they help you keep all the small tasks organized, and allow your clients to see what’s in progress versus what’s finished. Find one that works for you, even if it’s a personal system you’ve devised. Just be sure everyone is on the same page and understands it so all parties know how far along a project is at any given moment.

Talk to your client. Always articulate to your clients your availability, your deadlines, and your deliverables. If you think a project for them will take a while, don’t be afraid to speak up. Communicate clearly by writing it down or checking in frequently so both parties know what’s expected of you.

Set boundaries. Developing relationships is how you keep business flowing, but you are allowed to set limits to how much work you can take on. Let your clients your availability for work, as well as availability for calls, meetings, and your office hours.

Only promise what you can deliver. Emergencies happen, along with challenging workdays and unexpected circumstances. If you send in an estimated due date for a project, budget in some extra time in case this stuff comes up. Also, leave yourself enough room in your schedule to do things like eat, take walks, exercise, meditate — whatever is part of your daily routine.

Be realistic. As a freelancer, it’s tough to say no to an assignment.  However, if you can’t deliver the project perfectly, on time, and on budget, it may be best to find an alternative solution for your client.

As long as you’re consistent, communicative, and deliver to set expectations, your clients will feel you are partnering with them and will come back to you time and again.

Tax Tips for Freelancers in 2016

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016|

Did you know 38% percent of millennials freelance? That means twenty and thirty-somethings who work differently from their parents, also need to do their taxes in a very different way from their folks.

While freelancing offers flexible work hours, creative opportunities, and a level of independence, it also means having to become your own HR department. Although tax season is several months away, freelancers can start preparing now by organizing expenses, 1099s, and more. Check out these tips and tools to make your 2016 tax season a breeze:

Determine what kind of return you need to file. Are you a freelance business as an LLC, or are you an independent contractor? Or did you work as a W2 with staffing agencies like Artisan Creative? Make sure you find the correct forms to file based on your business, as well as corresponding state and local forms.

$600 or more means you need 1099. If you earn $600 or more from anyone client, you need to report that income on your tax return using a 1099-MISC form. So if a client has yet to send you these forms by February 2, contact them and request one.

You need to pay both income tax and self-employment tax. While this may come as a surprise to freelancers, you are essentially taxed twice — once as yourself, and once as a 1099 contractor. However, half of your self-employment tax is deductible as a business expense. If you haven’t set aside enough money to cover the cost of your taxes, start saving immediately so you can pay off at least some of your owed taxes. And if you determine you need to make estimated tax payments, make quarterly estimated tax payments on estimated income tax, including estimated self-employment tax.

Research tax breaks. The IRS offers a substantial number of tax breaks, which give freelancers a wonderful chance to get some additional deductions they’ve spent on their business. Deductions change from year to year, so look up common ways to determine your deductible expenses. For example, if you work from home, you can deduct the cost of your Internet bill, as it’s used while you work. Freelancers Union helps sort through this in its in-depth tax blog.

Set reminders. Do not wait until the week before April 15 to file your taxes unless you love stressing yourself out! Use calendars — from Google to iCal to the Sunrise app and more, there are plenty of online choices to keep track. Set aside enough time to complete a set of tasks, like determining deductions or adding up your total income or expenses from 2015. Filing taxes is a pain, but it’s an even bigger pain to do it under a tight deadline.

Organize receipts and expenses. To help maximize tax deductions and keep the IRS happy, it’s best to stay organized and keep updated records of receipts, expenses, and payments. Have all these things stored and easily accessible to reduce the stress of filing. For instance, if you’re creating a digital archive, Shoeboxed is a great app for storing, processing, and organizing pictures of receipts on your phone.

Get help from a seasoned tax professional. Because tax deductions change so often, it may be best to hire a CPA to help so you can take advantage and save money. NerdWallet is an excellent educational blog to help you make smarter financial decisions and can tell you which tax breaks you’re qualified for.  Just make sure if you hire a CPA, they are accredited and come recommended. The last thing you want is someone who’s untrustworthy handling your tax information!

Set yourself up for next year’s success. If you find that this year’s filing has been stressful, help take out some of the work for 2017 by setting yourself up to function more as an independent contractor next year. Create a separate bank account for your business to funnel payments through that account as well as pay any business expenses like insurance and tech maintenance through that account. Then use your organization system to keep track of receipts and such, as well as how much you think you’ll need to set aside to pay next year’s taxes.

With these tax tips, your freelance tax season will be the most time-saving — and money-saving — one you’ve had yet!

10 Best Practices for Your Resume

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016|

We’ve talked at length about the things to include on your resume. However, there are just as many things to avoid if you want to land an interview. Given that you’ve got a mere few seconds to impress a hiring manager, your resume needs to stand out! Here are 10 things to eliminate from your resume in order to highlight your work experience, skills, education, and achievements to be distinctive:

1. Objectives. These descriptions at the top of a resume not only feel antiquated, but they don’t add anything to your resume. Moreover, they focus on what want rather than what you can offer to the company. If you feel this job is the best next step for your career, talk about it in your cover letter.

2. Photos. Unless you’re auditioning for a TV pilot or modeling gig, don’t include your photos.  Chances are your online portfolio, website, or LinkedIn profile already includes your photo.

3. Subjective traits. You may feel you possess amazing leadership skills or are an innovative thinker in design, however, employers ignore these subjective traits because they can’t be measured. Instead, focus on objective facts and metrics If you really are an amazing leader, include how many team members you’ve managed, or include a quick example in your cover letter explaining how you’ve led your team to success, or achieved ROI in a campaign.

4. More than one page. We’ve debated this, but the short answer is–either in OK.  It all depends on your work experience, whether you have been freelancing at multiple places or been at the same company for several years.  The key is to include relevant, accurate, and current information.

5. Salary history. This is a major faux pas, as well as a bad idea, as it compromises your ability to negotiate for a higher salary later! Leave it off so you can have some negotiating power later.

6. Short-term jobs. You don’t want to come across as job-hopping, so make sure to emphasize freelance or contract in the job title.

7. Leave out overused words. Here’s just a sampling of words that are redundant and don’t give employers concrete information: capable, skillful, effective, hardworking, innovative, and motivated are all qualities they hope you already have without you having to say so. Instead, search for synonyms that more closely fit your personality. For instance, as an “effective” employee you “engage in creative tasks”.

8. “References Available Upon Request”. If an employer wants references, they will ask. Save precious resume space for other accomplishments rather than including this sentence at the bottom.

9. Education. If you’re just out of high school and applying to your first jobs, it makes sense to include the information. Otherwise, focus on college and graduate information as well as degrees earned.

10. Misspellings, grammar issues, and typos. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — proofread, proofread, proofread! Nothing can make the resume less professional than resume errors.

A resume is a snapshot of your work experience — not only should it be well written, but it should also highlight the best possible version of your experience and how you will be contributing to a new team. Take out irrelevant information, and polish up your resume so represents your experience in the best light possible.

How to Take Time Off from Freelancing Over the Holidays

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015|

Maintaining your freelance work during the holidays can be really stressful. Along with holiday shopping, travel, social events, volunteering, and so on, you have to juggle multiple clients and projects that may very well be likely wrapping up by the end of the year.

The challenge and beauty of freelancing is that it is unpredictable. It may be hard to predict when the next assignment will take place, so how can you enjoy the holidays without worrying about the bottom line?

Schedule moments of free time: Carve out specific calendar time for yourself, family, and friends throughout the holiday. You’ll feel less guilty about taking off an evening for a party or running errands if it’s been scheduled as time off already.

Post date all your work: Schedule social media, blogs, and emails in advance. Use tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Boomerang to take care of emails to clients or tweets for the company in advance.

Take advantage of free time: If work slows down on its own, consider it a gift of time to spend with your loved ones. Even if your cards are mailed and your cookies are baked, you can still enjoy other festivities or just take some time for yourself!

Work on next year’s work: Chances are your clients are out for the holidays as well, so use the quiet time to do things such as updating your portfolio, sprucing up your website, or working on personal projects. You’ll get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions without worrying about taking time away from work!

Plan for another time: It might be too late to take time off this year, but you can make a plan to take a vacation during the winter, spring, or next holiday. Figure out your expenses to cover the costs of your travel or time off, and then put a plan in action to make it happen. You deserve a break, even if it’s not during the holidays!

From all of us at Artisan Creative, have a wonderful and merry holiday season!

How To Say Yes At Work Without Driving Yourself Crazy

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015|

As a creative, your unique set of skills is in high demand! What’s great about this is that there’s always a business or organization that needs you. On the other hand, when friends or acquaintances need some help designing a website or crafting copy, they may turn to you when your plate is too full. Or perhaps you’ve added several new clients who take up a lot of your time, but you love working for each one. We all want to say “yes” to as much as possible, but how can you say yes without feeling like you’ve taken on too much?

Before you take on the next big thing, consider some of these factors so you can continue to balance work and life while taking on the best and brightest opportunities:

  • Passion: Is this project for a cause you believe in, or area of interest you love? If it’s something you’re passionate about, chances are you’re going to pour more of your heart into it since it’s personally fulfilling. For instance, those who are committed to a healthy lifestyle may likely have a better time creating logo designs for a new health or fitness client rather than a fashion one.
  • Development: Taking on projects that help you grow your skills is a smart move. Whether you’ll be working with someone who can help mentor your career or add new strengths to your resume, a project where you’ll learn is a great way to gain new experiences and fill in any gaps in your work history.
  • Fear: Think long and hard about whether you feel like want to decline a project due to time constraints, or because you’re afraid to take it on. Never fear! The jobs that scare us a little are often the ones where you learn the most!
  • Being a Team Player: Your job might want you to take on a few extra responsibilities, and as long as they’re doable and you can devote attention to them, it makes sense to showcase your ability to work in a team rather than saying no. However, if these responsibilities start to encroach on your existing job duties, you may want to bring up the idea of an intern or assistant with your boss.

Of course, we’re working to make money, but there are so many other factors beyond a paycheck that make an impact.. The best case scenario is a project you’re excited about that also pays well! But don’t turn down a project with less pay if it’s something that energizes your spirit.

If you do have to say “no” to a project, it’s better to politely decline than risk burnout. It’s better to evaluate your commitments and choose the ones you love best rather than take on new projects that might lead to a drop in productivity. Allow yourself to continue working on projects you care deeply about, and keep an eye open for the opportunities you to take on!

5 Ways You Can Manage Your Personal Brand

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015|

managing-personal-brand

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you are a brand. That means you have an identity, a mission, and a product — your skill set! Branding is only successful when it reflects consistency, so you must maintain yours across all online platforms. Here are five ways to manage your personal brand:

1. Website: This is an entire site dedicated to one thing — you. Make your brand count. Set up a blog and write about your creative endeavors, whether they are successes or challenges. Show off your best work, and update it frequently. Let people get to know you or your company better with an extensive About page, and make it simple for them to contact you.

2. Social Media: Set up a Facebook Page for yourself as a business, as well as a Twitter page and LinkedIn page for networking. Then keep using them! Populate all your social media with content as often as you can. Consider social media schedulers like HootSuite if you find you’re too busy to tweet. Use Namechk to find out whether your username is registered across multiple social media sites. Register your name on sites you don’t plan to use just in case those platforms suddenly make sense for you to use or become popular very quickly.

3. Logo/Image: If you have a company or brand name, use the logo as the image in your social media profiles. For those who freelance, using a professional photo of yourself is a great way to represent your brand. Remember, consistency is key — use the same photo across your website, online portfolio, and all social media platforms.

4. Mission and values: Every inch of bio space can be an opportunity to spread your mission statement. Who are you, what are you enthusiastic about, and why do you do what you do? If you’re a designer, now is your chance to briefly showcase your personality and passion for design. Again, keep that statement consistent.

5. Creative online outlets: Are you a copywriting maven? Blog about it. Are you an expert in your field? Create how-to videos on YouTube and share your knowledge with the world. Do you have a side business crafting a homemade product? Pinterest might be a place for you to become active. Or let people into your creative process via Periscope. Don’t be limited to a website and a few tweets. Create personal brand leverage by figuring out who you want to speak to the most, and which online platforms will allow you to reach that audience.

One final note: be sure to provide links to your pages, profiles, and portfolio wherever you can! Create an email signature, print up business cards with your website, and include them on your resume. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to find out who are you and what you do. That way, they’re more likely to contact you for work!

By becoming comfortable with creating an online presence, highlighting what you believe in, and developing a “voice”, you’ll help help broaden your networking opportunities among acquaintances, ex-colleagues, and future employers. Establish yourself as an expert, and then manage that expert brand on a regular basis!

Is Working Remotely Right for You?

Thursday, July 30th, 2015|

If you crave a more flexible work schedule or a nonexistent commute, working full-time or freelancing off-site is a great option. Although working remotely can be rewarding and exciting, it does present its own challenges. Here are a few things to consider about freelancing or full-time work off-site:

Is flexibility important? When you work off-site, it’s more likely you’ll be able to set your own schedule. If you need to watch the kids, you can take time off and finish your work later. If you prefer early morning or late evenings, you can get your work done then to run errands in the afternoon. Generally, it can offer a better work and life balance since you’re able to better determine how and when your work time is spent.

Can you manage your time well? Self-managing takes a lot of focus and discipline. It’s easy to get distracted at home. When you work from home, you’re expected to be responsible for finishing deadlines, even intense ones, without being managed by someone else. Consider whether you’re the kind of person who needs a supervisor or co-worker to help keep you on task, or if you feel your time management skills could use some improvement.

Do you want to save money? The cost of working adds up! Think of how much you spend per year on gas for your commute, lunches with co-workers, and appropriate business attire add up. When you work remotely, you can save money by not driving or eating at home. Even if you occasionally work from a coffee shop, you still will probably not end up spending as much as you might when you stop in for a latte every day on your morning commute. Also you may be able to claim some tax deductions on office supplies and tools you use like your Internet bill (see a tax specialist who can tell you more about this).

Is your workspace full of distractions? If you have small children at home, a needy pet, or other disturbances, your home workspace may make it hard for you to concentrate on your job. Then there’s your Netflix queue calling at 2pm when you want to procrastinate. Think about how you can separate yourself from your home and your home office, or if you’re able to set up shop in another workplace to create a distinction between work and home.

Do you prefer to work alone? Some people thrive in a group setting, while others prefer closed doors so they can focus on work. Some feel they get too distracted by others and others get too siloed on your own.  Find out which one is best for your working style before you commit to working offsite.

Are you able to adapt quickly? Working from home, whether freelance or full-time, means you could be “on call” in the early morning or late evening. It depends on the job, but an expectation may be set that you’ll be able to answer emails any time you’re at home. Additionally, if you’re a freelancer, the needs of your clients can change drastically, so you have to be ready to support them. And for those working for a company full-time from home, their needs can change suddenly as well. Being able to adapt fast to new situation is key.

For those who enjoy working independently and have great time management skills, working remotely might be your next big move!

Job Search: Research and Development Part II

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015|

In the second of our two-part series, Artisan Creative’s President Katty Douraghy talks about how to develop your brand in order to have a successful job search.

The Development phase of the R&D process includes developing your brand.

Start with Social Media.

  • Employers do check it out.
  • Learn how to control your privacy settings, so keep your private information private!
  • Depending on your industry, set up your appropriate social channels, join groups or start adding relevant content.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool

  • Update your profile and work history
  • Join industry groups
  • Expand your network and connections
  • Get recommendations
  • Participate in discussion boards, posts, or blogs to highlight your subject matter expertise

Develop Your Portfolio

  • If you are in the creative space, update your portfolio with recent, relevant samples.
  • Organize your samples by focus whether it’s digital, print, broadcast, or mobile.
  • Detail your involvement (whether it’s concepting, executing, production) and remove the guesswork for Hiring Managers.
  • Be specific if it was produced work, or comps or a class project
  • If you don’t have web skills to create your own custom portfolio, then use the several online portfolio tools that are available.
  • The key is to be current, relevant and organized in the flow of presentation of your work.

Next, Develop your resume.

  • Write, edit and proof it.  Did I mention to please proof your resume?  ◦A typo can quickly derail everything!
  • Besides using spell check, Read YOUR RESUME OUT LOUD and enunciate words to catch errors!
  • Have someone else read your resume with a fresh set of eyes.
  • Remove the guesswork from your resume. ◦Be specific with your work dates. Clearly state the months and years.
  • Indicate contract or freelance assignments, otherwise, it can be viewed as job-hopping.
  • Highlight your relevant work history
  • Use keywords, specific job titles, software programs, and certifications. Many online job application portals search and scan for keywords.
  • Use brief, concise bullets or phrases
  • Education: List graduation dates and completed degrees.

Next, practice your interviewing skills, especially if it’s been awhile

  • Practice in front of the mirror
  • Practice with a friend
  • Do an interview prep with your recruiter
  • Record yourself and listen to your voice, tone, filler words
  • Join Toastmasters or other public speaking forums to practice your presentation

The better your R&D phase in setting up the strategy for the job search, the more tactical you can be in your approach.

Leave the guesswork and haphazard approach to your competition—and plan your success to stand out from the crowd.

View Part I here

 

5 Online Courses to Make You More Marketable to Employers

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015|


At Artisan we’re big fans of self-improvement and learning new skills which is why we’ve put together a list of our favorite online resources to expand your knowledge and make you more marketable to future employers.

Online courses are a perfect way to hone existing skills and build new ones if you don’t have the time or money to do in-person workshops and lessons. The important thing to remember with online courses and discussing these with potential employers is that you must demonstrate how you used your newly-acquired skills e.g. “after learning X I then went on to create YZ.” Show that you can learn something on your own initiative and then apply it to something else.

Excel
There aren’t many jobs we can think of in our industry that don’t require exposure to Excel at some point. While some may work in Excel day in and day out, if you don’t use it too often you can become rusty. “But I don’t use Excel!” we hear you scream. At some point, you probably will and nothing will win your employer over more than having someone on their team who can navigate their way around. Excel Is Fun is a comprehensive YouTube channel with over 2000 tutorials and clips led by Mike “excelisfun” Girvin, a business instructor. There’s also Reddit’s creation, Excel Exposure, and Chandoo with extensive tutorials and advice.

Web Design
Udemy’s Introduction to Design course aims to teach you design principles and take you further than just using Photoshop. It’s free and includes over 12 lectures to bring you up to speed on design basics. If you want to take it one step further try Alison’s Applying Design Principles which is a more in-depth look at design including production and colors.

Languages
Learning languages doesn’t have to be about classrooms and textbooks when you have companies like Duolingo and Memrise. They both make language learning fun and entertaining by working with the theory that if you repeatedly learn, repeat, and memorize a word, it will eventually stick. If you’ve just started working with a new client who is based in Europe, try impressing them on your next status call with your new-found vocabulary.

Photoshop
If you work in design, Photoshop should be second nature to you but perhaps you’re moving into a more creative role or you need to start file checking or updating documents. For just $19 you can take a 30+ hour course on Photoshop. This course aims to teach you the basics and beyond. If you’re looking for free courses, Adobe also offers a 13-hour introduction on how to quickly master Photoshop which we’re particularly fond of.

Programming
There are a huge amount of online courses for programming, it can be hard to know where to begin. If you’re looking to move into a pure development role, it’s best to look at intensive courses where you can be hands-on but if you’re wanting to expand your understanding and come to terms with the more technical side, an introductory course can be helpful. Code School is an interactive way to learn front-end development. They teach you by doing, so you’re not just watching online tutorials but you’re putting what you learn into practice via lesson plans and coding challenges. They cover HTML, CSS, Responsive Design, and much more. We also recommend Team Treehouse, too. With a beautiful interface and easy-to-understand modules, learning programming languages has never been easier.

Have you tried online courses before? Which of these courses is the most useful to you?

 

Laura Pell – Artisan Creative