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Freelancer

The Power of “No”

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The Power of “No”

by Kate Vandeveld

For many, saying “no” can be a difficult exercise, both personally and professionally.

When you’re starting your own business, it can be especially difficult for fear of missing an opportunity or an important connection.

The Power of "No" -- via WhyWhisper

But we’ve learned that saying no selectively can do wonders for your productivity, mental health, and work-life balance. As in many situations, saying no for the first time is the hardest step. But when your response is met with understanding, as it often is, or you start to see positive effects, saying no becomes empowering rather than debilitating. We’re not saying that you should say no to everything, of course, but that it’s okay (and healthy) to be discerning with your time.

Here are some of the positive effects that we’ve seen in our own experience:

It Increases Productivity

When you’re moving in too many directions or have too much on your plate, it gets hard to focus. Being stretched too thin usually shows in your work, and almost always in your demeanor. It’s not good for anyone – yourself or those you’re working with and for. Saying no to certain projects or requests when you don’t have the capacity or just aren’t truly interested will free you up to be more productive and effective on the projects that you care about. And, on the flip side, it will allow your client or employer to find someone who is able to fully commit to the project or task at hand.

It Allows You to Prioritize

Similarly, when you start to say no to things, the tricky task of prioritizing becomes much easier. It will become clear relatively quickly which projects and people you truly want to be involved with, and which you need to turn down or set aside in a particular moment. You’ll learn that this doesn’t mean that the things you’re saying no to are unimportant, just that you can’t do it all.  And when you prioritize things that are important and meaningful to you, you’ll feel better about the effort that you put into those tasks and relationships.

It Frees Up Your Time for Self-Care & Connection

 For many of us, self-care is the first thing that goes when we’re extremely busy. Who has time to make a healthy lunch in the morning or spend time outside when we have deadlines and meetings and events and obligations – right? It can be difficult to say no to opportunities to just…take care of yourself. But really, self-care is even more important when you’re busy. Block off time for yourself, and say no when a conflicting request arises. Make that time a priority. The same goes for spending meaningful time with the important people in your life. When you make plans with them, do your best to stick to them, even if you feel like you should be doing something else. You shouldn’t – those connections matter (a lot!), and you need to nurture them.

 

It Shows That You Value Your Time

Professionally, you may think that saying no to meetings or potential clients or projects looks bad for you or your brand. But, really, if you take the time to evaluate the situation and tactfully decline, it can have the opposite effect. Your time is valuable, and when you’re selective and focused with it, people will generally respect that. It’s not always easy to value your own time and talents – but when you do, others will too.

 

We’re certainly not experts on saying no, but we practice! And we think you should too. Sometimes, changing a seemingly small habit can have a powerful effect on all facets of your lives.

What’s a habit that you’ve changed that has made a significant difference? Share with us – we want to talk about it! Here’s how:

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The Pros & Cons of Freelancing

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The Pros & Cons of Freelancing

by Kate Vandeveld

As you may know, the freelance economy is booming these days, with freelancers set to outnumber full-time employees by 2020.

As freelancers ourselves, many of us hear the same question from our networks over and over again: “Do you think I should try it?” The answer might seem simple to other freelancers (yes!), but the truth is…freelancing is not for everyone.

Pros & Cons of Freelancing - via WhyWhisper Collective

As with almost everything, freelancing has its pros and cons. Since we’re familiar with both sides of the story, we’re happy to share our thoughts on the subject. Let’s start with some of the benefits:

All Kinds of Freedom

This one tops the list. With freelancing comes freedom of all kinds. Freelancers have the freedom to create their own schedules, so they can choose to work at the times of day when they’re most effective, rather than forcing themselves to work at pre-determined times. They can go for a walk on a beautiful day, grab a long lunch with a friend, or just take a break when they aren’t feeling particularly productive. When you freelance, not only do you get to choose when you work, but where you work as well. Are you more productive at home? Go for it. Need to be around others? Try a co-working space or a coffee shop. You can develop your own routine, or opt to mix it up. Plus, as a freelancer, you aren’t confined to a limited number of vacation days. Most of the time, freelancers can work from anywhere with a Wifi connection, so you can travel anywhere without disrupting your workflow.

Perhaps even more important than choosing when and where you work is choosing who you work with and for. At WhyWhisper, we prioritize working with the right people and organizations. We choose to work with individuals who are kind, collaborative, and passionate above all else, and with businesses and organizations that are making a positive impact on society. Before setting out on your own, define the types of people, companies, and organizations with whom you feel you would work well.

 

Uninhibited Growth

As a freelancer, you have the opportunity to grow your career in whatever direction you desire, creating your own opportunities for advancement. In a corporate environment, your career development is often bound by internal structure and protocol. Though you can advocate for a promotion or more responsibility, it’s not always in your control. When you work for yourself, you can choose how much you want to take on and decide how much you want to charge for your services. It’s not always this simple, but generally, the more you put into your work, the more you can get out of it. 

Speaking of rates, freelancers also tend to make more than salaried employees, on average. In fact, the average freelancer makes 45% more than the average full-time employee. Of course, this depends entirely on your skill-set, experience, and the number of projects you are able to take on, and it doesn’t account for benefits, but the possibility of making more is there. 

 

Balance 

When you work eight or more hours each day, one of the hardest things to achieve is balance. You’re working on someone else’s schedule, so it can be difficult to incorporate the things that keep you happy and healthy. Because employee satisfaction has such a strong correlation with productivity, many companies have worked to develop corporate wellness programs in recent years. But when you work for yourself, you don’t need corporate wellness programs – you can do yoga at 10am when classes aren’t full, or wake up and go for a jog on a nice morning. When you’re a freelancer, you have the ability to determine what work-life balance means to you, and develop a schedule that achieves it.

Pros & Cons of Freelancing -- via WhyWhisper Collective

 

Now, let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks, as we see them:

Uncertainty

Most would say that one of the biggest cons of freelancing is the lack of reliable cash flow. When your projects vary month-to-month, so does your income, which can be difficult to manage for some, especially at the beginning.

This means that, as a freelancer, you almost always have to be making moves and selling your skillset. It can be fun – you learn a lot, and have the opportunity to meet cool people almost every day, if you’re lucky. But sometimes, it can be exhausting. As a freelancer, you’re a salesperson, and what you’re selling is your own skills. Making the case for yourself repeatedly can be tough, but as you get more confident in your abilities, you’ll likely find that you’re able to speak to your skillsets more readily and your reputation will spread among your network and beyond, solely by word of mouth recommendations.

 

Logistics

Remember when there was someone else being paid to manage your benefits? Someone who filed all of your expense receipts for you? As a freelancer, that person is you. And you don’t get paid extra to do it. While it can be empowering to learn about and manage these administrative tasks, it can also get very overwhelming and/or tedious. We’ve talked about how to set yourself up to manage the administrative side of freelancing more easily so you don’t get stuck with hours of paperwork that you don’t understand all at once. The more you prepare yourself, the easier this aspect is.

 

Boundaries

As much as the ability to create your own work-life balance can be a pro, it can also be a con in some respects. Because you make your own schedule as a freelancer, you also have to set your own limits. While you’re no longer expected to stay at an office from 9 to 5 (and often beyond) each day, you’re also not restricted to any “normal” working hours. This can make it hard to stop and take a break, or move on from work to do other things. And when you do, it can be difficult to shake the guilty feeling that you should keep going, working on your portfolio or seeking out new clients. If you aren’t able to set boundaries for yourself, you could easily burn out.  

So before you decide to take the leap into freelancing, definitely take the time to think it through carefully. Is your personality one that can handle the ebbs and flows of freelancing? Is the freedom worth the uncertainty that comes along with it? We certainly think so, but we know it’s not for everyone.

What do you think are the biggest pros and cons of working for yourself? Share with us! Here’s how:

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Marketing: When You Should (& Should Not) Work With an Outside Firm

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Marketing: When You Should (& Should Not) Work With an Outside Firm

by Kate Vandeveld

At WhyWhisper, we believe wholeheartedly in only working with clients when we’re passionate about their work AND we know we can help them reach their goals. In fact, we built our business model in such a way that we are able to customize our teams based on each client’s particular needs, objectives, and industry.

Marketing: When You Should (& Should Not) Work With an Outside Firm -- via WhyWhisper

That said, we would never suggest that working with an outside firm is always the best answer. We know there are certain circumstances under which working with an outside firm is more beneficial than others (and we’re not afraid to say that out loud). Next time you’re contemplating hiring vs. leveraging external resources, keep these things top of mind:

  • The exact responsibilities and/or role that you are looking to fill and the expertise required
  • Your available budget
  • The estimated hours required per week in order to meet this need

Once you have those answers, you’ll be in a good place to determine whether it makes sense to build your capacity internally, or engage an outside firm for support. Here’s how we see it:

 

You should probably hire in-house if...

 

You need consistent, long-term support.

As you’re deciding between building your in-house team and seeking outside support, take a look at your list of needs, and the estimated time commitment. If it seems like you’ll need someone regularly throughout the day, and there’s no immediate end in sight for the work that you need them to do, it probably makes sense to hire someone in-house. While consultants will do their best to make themselves available, when needed, they tend to be a better solution for a specific deliverable or set period of time.

You’re working with a highly technical or niche product.

Generally, consultants are highly adept at quickly entrenching themselves in a particular field or industry, becoming experts on products and brands very quickly.  That said, if your company develops a product that requires extensive and complex technical knowledge, it will likely take more time and resources than it’s worth to bring an outside firm up to speed. If this is the case, consider hiring a full-time employee who will be able to use that knowledge and training beyond the scope of a specific project.

You have the time and budget to hire someone in-house.

If your company is in a steady state of growth, has a stable budget, and needs 40 hours/week of support, it makes good sense to make a full-time hire. Plus, as a fully invested member of the team, you have flexibility in regards to responsibilities without having to reassess budgets.

 

Marketing: When You Should (& Should Not) Work With an Outside Firm -- via WhyWhisper

On the other hand, you can benefit from working with an outside firm if…


You need a fresh perspective. 

If you’re having difficulty achieving intended results – whether sales, reach, engagement, or something else entirely – it may be time for a strategy overhaul. In these circumstances, we often hear that it can be hard for the day-to-day team to find the time or objective perspective necessary for taking a step back, identifying the problem, and re-thinking the strategy, As you might imagine, an outside firm (especially one with experience in your sector) might be just what you need. They’ll be able to look at your current practices objectively, and offer a new take on how you can effectively reach your goals. After all, developing a solid strategy is crucial to the success of your marketing efforts.

You need additional staff for a short time period.

On a normal day, you ‘re confident you have the ideal team for successfully operating your business. That is, until you decide it’s time to launch a new product or campaign, or your busy season arrives. In these situations,  it probably doesn’t financially make sense to hire a new full-time employee. Instead, consider working with an outside firm to give you short-term support.

For example, if you’re looking to launch a crowdfunding campaign, you really wouldn’t want to bring on a full-time marketing or development person. What you need is a small team of individuals who have extensive crowdfunding experience. They can help you develop a solid strategy and show you how to implement. Beyond that, you can determine whether it’s beneficial to keep them on for execution, or if that’s something that you are able to handle with your existing in-house staff.

You need a particular skillset but don't have the budget or headcount to hire.

Sometimes, as much as you’d like to hire a full team of permanent employees to meet every possible need, it’s just not financially possible. For this reason, it often works well to hire a full-time team to handle daily operations, but outsource for particular needs if and when they arise.

For example, if you don’t have an in-house design team, but do have interim design needs, this is the perfect opportunity to bring on a freelancer or contractor, as needed. Or perhaps you’re interested in developing a social impact strategy to incorporate into your company’s operations, but you don’t have the necessary expertise or aren’t ready for full program build-out. A consultant can be a useful resource in helping you build out your plans.

You are scaling quickly and need immediate support.

Hiring the right full-time employee takes time and careful consideration… and with salary, benefits, training time, and team morale, onboarding the wrong person can be incredibly costly. If you’re facing an urgent talent need, but know better than to rush through the process, consider retaining an experienced consultant short-term. Consultants are generally prepared to ramp up quickly, and can even be beneficial if helping you identify your hiring needs.


What are your thoughts on working with outside agencies versus building internal capacity? We want to talk about it! You can…

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Enjoy the Process: How Workshop Chicago Is Building a Community

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Enjoy the Process: How Workshop Chicago Is Building a Community

by Kate Vandeveld

Because of the freelance nature of our work at WhyWhisper Collective, many of us leverage coworking spaces for community, networking, and access to office resources. We’re big believers in the growing freelance economy, and the collective impact we can make when we come together to use our skills and talents effectively.

As you may know, we’re also big supporters of social enterprise. So when freelance and social enterprise come together, we like to spread the word. This week, we had the opportunity to chat with Ben Skoda, founder of coworking space, Workshop Chicago. We’re inspired by his unique approach to developing a community for freelancers and entrepreneurs, and his belief in the growing impact of the freelance economy.

How Workshop Chicago is Building a Community -- via WhyWhisper

Here’s what he had to say:

Why did you start Workshop?

The concept for Workshop was a confluence of a few things – 1) my desire to connect quality people in Chicago, building community for remote workers and other creatives, 2) an interest in creating a multimedia platform for myself and friends to share our skill sets with the world, and 3) an attempt to see if I could start a business from the ground up and “be my own boss” (with a lot of help).

 

Tell us the story of Workshop's development - how did it get to where it is today?

Workshop has come a long way! We’ve gone through a lot of iteration, going back to before we had our own space. We always had a hunch that we could create something unique with the right space, the right people, a little hard work and some creativity. What we didn’t know was exactly which combination of those things would be the best route to our original vision for Workshop.

We shared the concept and got a core group of people on board. Then we started to meet and feel out what it would take to see a consistent community take shape. When we were comfortable moving ahead, we searched for spaces, and it took about 8-10 months before we signed a lease. Since we opened the doors of our space, we’ve never stopped adjusting.

We’re constantly in search of balance between building a brand, furnishing a space on a budget, developing and curating a community, finding the right group of people to manage operations and keep the creativity flowing, and most challenging of all, doing all of this while attempting to find stable revenue streams with limited resources. After a year of being in the space, we feel like we have a lot figured out, but we still have a long way to go to be a profitable business for the long-term. We’re excited about what we’ve learned, and anxious to see how people continue to utilize Workshop creatively.

How Workshop Chicago Is Building a Community -- via WhyWhisper

Co-working spaces like Workshop are so essential in supporting the growing workforce of freelancers and consultants. What has been the most rewarding part of contributing to that movement?

I’ve always been intrigued by the changing work culture, mostly because I think I fit so well into the freelance/consultant/small business culture personally. It’s been an eye-opening experience as we’ve explored ways to support the people who are trying something new, taking the plunge into entrepreneurship or pursuing a dream. It’s personally rewarding because seeing it all up close gives me faith that we can make it work – that the established vocational tracks (that never seemed to fit me) aren’t the only way. But it’s most rewarding to facilitate an environment where others have opportunities to make a new connection, get hired, collaborate, or experience a “light bulb” moment when they realize the same thing I’m realizing: “We can do this.” And we can.

 

How do you see the freelance movement evolving over the next 5 or so years?

I think we have the technology to make the connections it takes to be successful as a freelancer. We need to build the community, create awareness, and ultimately keep the momentum to continue to provide space so that everyone who wants to try to be their own boss has that opportunity. Going off on your own isn’t for everyone, but it took me decades to even grasp the idea that working for myself was a possibility. I’d love to live in a world where freelancing is easily accessible, and be part of a culture that supports those who want to go down that road – or at a minimum presents everyone with their realistic options. I love seeing the underdog succeed, and what we’re moving toward is the underdog being a bit more of the norm.

How Workshop Chicago Is Building a Community -- via WhyWhisper

How do you envision Workshop growing over the next 5 or so years?

Workshop could go in a few different directions, and perhaps all of them at once. We’re constantly trying to develop in a way that makes us lean and versatile, so that it’s not unrealistic that in a 24-hour period we could facilitate an active co-working community, a charity reception, a yoga class, and a support group for new entrepreneurs.

We’re looking to develop our team and systems in a way that allows us to host a full calendar, each day and night of the week, supporting the people who have invested in Workshop in a variety of ways. We plan to push the limits of what can be done in a 3,000 sq. foot loft office, and to continue to offer a soft landing for anyone leaping into a new season of their professional life.

 

Do you have any advice for others who are thinking about leaving the 9-5 life to work independently?

Do your homework, take calculated risks, trust those around you or find new people you can trust to help you get where you want to be. Be patient, make room for iteration and adjustments, and learn to enjoy the process more than the ultimate goal. At least those are all the things I’m working on!

 

If you’re interested in freelancing, or already doing it, check out our Freelancer’s Guide to 2015 for tips on how to do it right.

Are you inspired by a unique social enterprise? Tell us about them in the comments below, make an introduction via email, or let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!  

 

 

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Teach Yourself a Lesson with These Free Online Courses

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Teach Yourself a Lesson with These Free Online Courses

by Kate Vandeveld

As many of us know all too well, getting an education can be expensive.

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Obama said that “too many bright Americans are priced out of the education that they need,” and reinforced his plan to provide free community college to students who want to attend but can’t afford it. He argued that our society rewards education in a greater way than ever before, making it increasingly crucial for everyone to have access to education, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Free Online Courses

In light of the movement towards accessible education, we’re excited to share some of the many courses that you can access for free online. Whether you are interested in picking up a new skill or want to learn more about a subject that interests you, these sites provide you with the opportunity to do so without racking up unnecessary debt. Plus, online learning can be incredibly effective: A report by the U.S. Department of Education notes that classes with an online learning component “on average, produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction.”

Here are a few of our favorite resources for free online courses:

 

Coursera is a for-profit education platform that offers a wide variety of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. As of October of last year, over 22 million individuals were enrolled in the almost 600 courses available on the platform. Founded by Stanford graduates, Coursera partners with over 100 colleges and universities worldwide to offer a selection of their courses online for free.

With Coursera, you can complete your assignments and reading on a relatively flexible schedule, making it ideal for those who are unable to commit to a predetermined course timeline. That said, you won’t be able to work entirely at your own pace: only a portion of each course’s curriculum is “active” at a given time, so you will need to complete assignments during the allotted time period. This is because with Coursera, you are actually interacting with a professor and other students, giving you the chance to ask questions and engage in class discussion throughout the given time period.

Coursera also offers Verified Certificates to those students who complete a course on a Signature Track. This is essentially a paid version of an otherwise free course, thereby giving students official verification of course completion. 

 

edX is a non-profit MOOC provider that is similar to Coursera in that it offers free courses that are affiliated with colleges and universities from all over the world. Founded by graduates of Harvard and MIT, edX offers over 400 courses to more than 3 million users worldwide.

As with Coursera, edX courses are on a fixed timeline, but with flexibility around when students can complete assignments within that given timeline. edX also offers students the option to pay for a Verified Certificate, similar to the option provided by Coursera.

When it comes to deciding between Coursera and edX, we suggest that you choose which you’ll use based on the available course options, as both offer similar features.


Khan Academy is a non-profit education platform that develops and provides YouTube video lectures on a variety of subjects. Khan Academy courses are for all ages, starting with Kindergarten-level. The platform also provides tools and educational resources for teachers, along with resources on subjects like college admissions. Khan Academy’s lectures are available worldwide, and are currently translated into almost 40 languages.

Because Khan Academy’s courses are not affiliated with specific institutions, you can really learn at your own pace. Just select the topics that you want to learn, and then watch the videos and complete the associated exercises, as you’re able.  


Skillshare is different from the other platforms we’ve discussed thus far, in that it is geared toward creative fields rather than academic subjects. Skillshare, whose subjects range from photography to advertising to food and more, allows students to work at their own pace, while also providing them with access to a community of others who are taking related courses.

Skillshare offers free and paid membership options. The paid version provides users with unlimited access to their courses for $8 a month. This supports its teachers and also includes a donation to a membership for a student in need. Team membership is a bit more costly at $24 a month, but it provides students with personalized learning plans, dedicated learning experts, and detailed progress tracking.  

 

Codecademy is an free online education platform for those who want to learn how to code, offering courses in 6 different programming languages – HTML & CSS, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby, and PHP. As of September 2014, Codecademy had over 24 million unique users.

With Codecademy, users build their own profiles and then work on their own projects – all at their own paces. Whether you’re looking to build a personal website or start a new career in computer programming, Codecademy’s lessons and exercises will help you develop the coding-related skills you need. Additionally, it provides feedback on users’ work, and badges upon completion of different exercises, so as to provide encouragement as you master the art of coding.

 

These platforms are revolutionizing education by opening doors for bright individuals who may not otherwise have the means to pursue learning opportunities.

Do you know of free educational platforms that you think others should know about too? Share it with us in the comments below, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We’re happy to help spread the word.

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The Freelancer’s Guide to 2015

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The Freelancer’s Guide to 2015

by Kate Vandeveld

The freelance economy has grown tremendously in recent years. In fact, freelance workers are actually projected to outpace full-time workers by 2020.  And for good reason: Freelancing enables motivated and independent individuals to work for the clients whose missions inspire them, while also allowing organizations to tap into the unique skillsets that they need for particular projects.

But freelancing comes with its own unique challenges, from achieving the optimal client-freelancer relationship to keeping your finances straight. As we have quite a bit of experience in the freelance world, we thought we’d pass along some of our learnings.  Here’s our advice for freelancers who want to kick off 2015 on the right foot:

Maintain a Work-Life Balance

Making your own schedule can be incredibly liberating. As a freelancer, you are often free to work at the times when you are the most effective – early morning, late at night, or somewhere in between. The problem is, without the structure of a 9 to 5 schedule, it can become difficult to step away from work and unplug. There is always more that could be done, whether it’s clocking time on a project, researching potential clients, or honing your personal brand.

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But, as with every career path, maintaining a work-life balance is essential for your success (and sanity!). It is so important to “work when you’re working, and not when you’re not.” One way to do it is to set (and adhere to) a schedule for yourself. Whether it’s based on an hourly breakdown or completing certain tasks on a given day, setting goals and limits will give you a sense of accomplishment and give you a clear sense of when it is time to sign off. If you want to do this by choosing a select number of hours to work each day or week, try using time tracking software – it will make your life a lot easier. 

 

Find a Co-Working Space

In chatting with other freelancers, we’ve heard the same story over and over again: At the beginning of the freelance journey, working from home is awesome. No longer do you have to adhere to a “normal” schedule; you can take breaks when you feel the need, and set up an optimal work environment for you. But after a couple of days or weeks, you may start to feel a little bit isolated or unmotivated. The joy of working from your living room is replaced by a feeling that you need to have a separate workspace, with other like-minded individuals to talk to.

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Enter the co-working space. Co-working spaces are offices where individuals work on their own projects in a rented space. If you live in a big city, you’ll find that they are all over the place. Some are catered toward specific niches – tech or creative, for example – while other are open to anyone who needs a space to work. Each co-working space is a bit different, offering different set-ups – from separate offices to open floor plans with desks – and ambiance, so you should definitely do some research and visit the spots that appeal to you before making a decision. Co-working will give you the opportunity to better separate work and home when you need to, and allow you to connect with others who are doing similar or related work.

If co-working isn’t for you, be sure to create a separate spot for working within your own home. And if you want to work outside the home, but can’t find a co-working space, give your local coffee shop or bookstore a try! 

 

Seek Out Networking Opportunities

As a freelancer, you can secure much-needed support and inspiration by finding opportunities to connect with others who are involved in work that is relevant to your field. Without the built-in relationship-building that comes with working in an office, however, you’ll need to seek out these opportunities on your own.  Even though networking as a freelancer takes a bit more effort, it’s relatively easy to do, and will have a big impact on your career development.

Start by using online forums like Meetup.com to connect with other individuals in your area who are working in your field or freelancing. You can also use LinkedIn as a resource for making connections. Reach out to the people in your network who are working for organizations and businesses that you admire, and ask them to connect you with others in the space. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but more often than not, people are more than willing (and even excited!) to help you make connections with others in their networks.

Co-working spaces often provide networking opportunities as well. Before joining one, be sure to check out whether or not they have events like happy hours and workshops that will allow you to spend some non-working time with the other members. 

 

Stay on Top of Your Finances

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Much of the time, managing finances is a little bit trickier for freelancers than they are for corporate employees. Independent contractors often have to handle their own accounting, from billing to bookkeeping to taxes, and many go into it without knowing the first thing about how to do it the right way. It might sound daunting, but there are ways to make it more manageable. Here are some tips that will make handling your finances easier:

  1. Separate your personal and business finances: This will make your life infinitely easier when tax season comes along.
  2. Select a finance day each month or quarter: Managing your finances all in one annual sitting will likely prove to be quite miserable.
  3. Use accounting apps / software: Find a software (like Freshbooks or Bench) that fits your needs, and take the time to familiarize yourself with how it works and how it can help you.
  4. Set aside a certain percentage of your income for taxes: If you aren’t working with an accountant, you can use a free tax estimator to help you decide how much to set aside for taxes.

When it comes to taxes and planning for retirement, Freelancers Union has some great tools that can help set you up for a successful year – check out their tips.

 

Don’t Forget About Health insurance

And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget about health insurance. When transitioning to the freelance life, it may be easy to forget about things that were previously built into your benefits package. Luckily, these days, applying for health insurance isn’t as difficult as you might think.

To get coverage, you can apply directly through healthcare.gov, which provides a great deal of information on health coverage for the self-employed.  You can also turn to third-party sources like Freelancers Union for information about the best package for you.

However you go about it, just be sure to take care of it as soon as possible – open enrollment now ends on February 15th. If you haven’t applied by then, the only way you can get coverage for 2015 is if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. And if you don’t have coverage, you will be penalized at tax time at a rate that is certainly not worth it.

 

Whether you’re a freelancer or not, the New Year provides us all with an opportunity to start off on a better, more organized foot. Take steps to evaluate your work life, and make changes wherever you can improve.

How do you plan to set yourself up for career success this year? Let us know in the comments below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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How to Achieve the Optimal Client-Freelancer Relationship

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How to Achieve the Optimal Client-Freelancer Relationship

by Kate Vandeveld

The concept of freelance is a beautiful thing. It allows consultants to be selective about the clients with whom they work, choosing organizations they respect and projects they know they can contribute to effectively. At the same time, it allows clients to access talented individuals’ expertise for projects that will benefit from their skillsets.

WhyWhisper is based on this concept. We are all freelancers, each possessing a unique set of skills, interests, and experiences – and we come together in a team structure to best support the companies and causes we care about.

But if we’re being honest…not every client-freelancer relationship is created equal. There are certain things that both parties can do to ensure success and enjoyment during a project. Here they are:

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Communicate Clearly & Effectively

For clients and freelancers to work together effectively, both parties need to be on the same page. Things change, and roadblocks will almost certainly pop up. When a client and freelancer can clearly and effectively communicate their way through these changes, they will be able to overcome obstacles, and develop strategies that lead to the most successful outcomes.

You can avoid miscommunications by:

  1. Setting clearly defined expectations at the onset of any project
  2. Being proactive in your communication, reaching out to get what you need in advance of deadlines
  3. Responding to all outreach in a timely manner
  4. Being clear and direct in your questions and responses
  5. Letting the other party know if and when something comes up that will change the project’s scope
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Be Honest & Straightforward

Honesty and straightforwardness go hand-in-hand with good communication. To develop a strong and effective client-freelancer relationship, both parties need to be as honest as possible with one another, in terms of expectations and abilities. If a client isn’t straightforward about their needs, the freelancer is bound to fall short, and if a freelancer overpromises and under delivers, the client is sure to end up frustrated, and could also be thrown off track.

You can stay direct and upfront by:

  1. Letting the freelancer know if a deliverable isn’t what you were looking for or requires revisions (client)
  2. Keeping the other party informed when you need more assistance or time that you hadn’t anticipated (client and freelancer)
  3. Delivering critical feedback whenever necessary (client and freelancer)
  4. Being realistic about your skills and availability throughout the course of the project (freelancer)
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Show Mutual Respect

Clients and freelancers must have a mutual respect for one another in order for the partnership to be successful. This respect manifests itself in many ways – in how each values the other’s opinions, abilities, and time, to name a few. When client-freelancer teams respect each other, it is much easier for both to communicate effectively and be honest with one another.

You can build respect by:

  1. Taking each other’s ideas and opinions into consideration
  2. Providing thoughtful feedback
  3. Being conscious of tone in communication
  4. Being mindful of each other’s time
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Find a Balance Between Flexibility & Consistency

Sometimes, a project’s timeline can change pretty drastically as it develops. As these changes unfold, two elements are imperative to the client-freelancer relationship: flexibility and consistency. When both parties are able maintain a level of consistency throughout the project, while simultaneously accommodating changes as they arise, the team can develop a smooth and efficient workflow.

You can find this balance by:

  1. Delivering consistently high quality work (reviewing before it goes out!)
  2. Sticking to deadlines
  3. Working together to accommodate changes in schedule
  4. Remaining focused on the outcome of the project, even as changes arise

A positive relationship between a client and freelancer can make all the difference in the level of energy and ultimate success of a project. Client-freelancer teams that communicate effectively, respect each other, and are straightforward, flexible, and consistent will be able to make the most of their time working together, and will even have fun doing it!

What do you think is the most important aspect of a client-freelancer relationship? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, or message us on Facebook or Twitter. And don’t forget to connect with us on Instagram too!

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Beyond Marketing: Here's What I Really Learned as a Social Entrepreneur

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Beyond Marketing: Here's What I Really Learned as a Social Entrepreneur

by Shanley Knox

I joined the WhyWhisper team after four years of work as a social entrepreneur. 

WhyWhisper gives me a place to pass along the lessons I learned in branding a social enterprise. After riding the highs and lows of running a business on my own, WhyWhisper gives me opportunities to work for social change while also being a part of a community. And as a freelancer who, in any given month, can find herself working from East Africa, California, or New York City, WhyWhisper gives me a digital platform to consistently call my home. 

As I work with other companies and causes, I’ve discovered that we share more than the goal of building an impactful brand. We share the often inspiring, but sometimes disparaging, journey along the way. 

So, here are a few things I've learned that have nothing do to with how clickable a campaign will be, but have everything to do with working for social change.

It’s Going to Be Different Than You Think

When I started Nakate Project in Uganda, I thought I would be linking artisans in rural villages to skills training in urban areas, so as to generate local sales. Two years later, I was working to promote female-led Ugandan businesses in international markets. At first, I balked when I saw that change needed to happen. But I began to learn, over time, that the ability to pivot within your business is the only way to effectively find a model that creates impact.  

It’s Going to Take Longer Than You Think

I thought I’d see marked results within a few weeks. I wanted large, measurable impact. If somebody told me it would be years until I began to feel the satisfaction of seeing actual change, I might have quit right then and there. I didn’t want to have to go through the painful building phase where I had to keep seeing the unmet needs of our target population, and feel humbled by my lack of power. What I learned along the way is that systemic change runs a long, painstaking course, and social entrepreneurs experience setbacks, obstacles, discouragement, and failed efforts.  

It’s Going to Be Harder Than You Think

I knew cognitively that pushing social change in Uganda would be hard. I knew it would be long hours, and not a lot of pay, but I didn’t know that it would hurt. I hadn’t yet processed that real change involves the willingness to push through social and societal norms. It means being the odd woman (or man) out. It means saying things that people don’t like to hear, and working to explain why systems should be shifted. Sometimes, it means leaving parts of your business or work behind when it's no longer in line with your vision. All of it is emotional, personal, and often painful. I’ve come to understand that this is part of what makes social change so worthwhile -- good things never come easy. 

You’re Going to Change More Than You Think

I was a different girl when I started Nakate. The business, in itself, has pushed me to my limits. It’s humbled me. It’s exhilarated me. It’s given me a platform to write, to speak, to meet people across the globe, and to discover an entirely new home for myself in East Africa. At some point, I realized that I hardly recognized myself. The experience of living so far out of my comfort zone had pushed me to become someone new. 

It’s Going to Be More Rewarding Than You Think

I wanted to quit Nakate a hundred times on a hundred different days, but I didn’t. And I’m grateful for that, every single day. That’s because my social enterprise didn’t just teach me how to persevere, run a business in a another culture, or afford me the determination and vision to continue pushing through my failures and mistakes. It taught me how to fight for what I love. It taught me to believe in my work, and to have enough humility to change when I discovered it may be faulty. 

Every day I sign in to begin my work for our clients at WhyWhisper, I bring gratitude with me -- gratitude for all that I’ve been taught in my own journey, and gratitude to have found a community at WhyWhisper where I can walk alongside others as they embark on a similar journey. 

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Freelance Resources: How to Market Your Skills Without Spending a Dime

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Freelance Resources: How to Market Your Skills Without Spending a Dime

The social good network is a tightly knit, passionate community united by shared values, as well as shared goals. As such, it's a space in which a referral or introduction from a trusted source can be the defining factor in landing a partnership or a job. 

Whether you’re looking to expand the reach of your network, establish some credibility, or land a job at a company you care about, here are a few ways to market your skills without spending a dime:  

1. Give Feedback 

Social entrepreneurs and nonprofit founders tend to regularly ask friends and family for feedback and advice. They know that a few key comments on a strategy or campaign can make all the difference in the efficacy of their efforts. As such, offering feedback is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your knowledge and demonstrate your value. 

Looking for a quick and easy way to deliver your comments? Make a voice recording. Tools like EvernoteiPhone’s voice notes or Cloud Recorder  can help you create shareable voice files that succinctly demonstrate your value. After spending a couple minutes on specific feedback points, don't be afraid to throw in a sentence or two about how you might continue to be of service through freelance or contract work. 

2. Co-work

Co-working can be as official as taking part in a program like Goodnik’s in-residence program, or as casual as setting up a weekly coffee date with a friend. The most important thing to remember is that it’s about finding a good working environment for you. At WhyWhisper, we've found that working alongside people who have similar passions and values is what makes co-working most powerful. Why? Brainstorm sessions, problem-solving, and referrals will naturally occur throughout your day.

3. Sit on a Panel 

Social good networks use panels as a way to get to the heart of important issues. Seek out the ones where you can provide the most value while reaching an audience that includes prospective clients and/or partners. Prepare thoughtful and insightful commentary, and pay particular attention to connecting via social channels and email, so as to establish a relationship while you're still top of mind. Your target audience is likely to follow up with additional questions and requests to chat further. 

4. Provide Empowering Environments

Connecting people is a powerful way to demonstrate your willingness to meet the needs of others. In a world of endless meet ups and happy hours, people appreciate introductions that help them to quickly cut through the clutter. Facilitate these meetings by hosting dinners or setting up happy hours with like-minded guests. Your efforts will not go unnoticed, and your guests will be all the more likely to do the same for you in the future.

5. Know Your Own Value 

You have probably already heard that people value those who value themselves. As you establish yourself within the social good community, you will be asked for your input and advice, as well as to lend a helping hand. Carefully providing thoughtful feedback is wonderful. Finding a way to clearly  communicate the monetary value of your product or services is even better. It ensures that others in your network will think of you as a valuable colleague, and opens the door for future business. 

Do you have a helpful tip to share about networking within the social good community? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

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