Category Archives: job

Freelancing isn’t for everyone

I think that most of us – at some point in our lives – have thought about quitting our day jobs to try and start our own business, or to become a freelancer. But as I embark on month four of fulltime freelancing, I have to say, it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. And even though I feel grateful that I’ve had success so far, there’s nothing wrong with staying in a corporate job, and I’m beginning to realize that for a lot of people (maybe myself included), freelancing will never be the right career move.

If you’re thinking of making the move to freelancing, here are a few things you should think over:

You need experience

If you’ve just recently graduated from school, chances are you won’t have the experience, the portfolio, or the network you need to become a successful freelancer. Sure, some people can make it happen immediately, but it’s extremely difficult to prove your value and show clients that you’re capable of taking on their projects if you have nothing to show them but the work that you’ve done in school.

I would suggest starting a freelancing career in your spare time, and woking a full-time job in order to gain experience. That way, you will start to build a freelance client base, and still keep money flowing in to pay the bills and help fund your business. It might be more difficult this way, but it provides much more security, and you are more likely to succeed at freelancing once you do decide to go for it full-time.

It is not easier than a corporate job

Did you hear me?! :) A lot of people look at freelancing as a way to make more money with less effort. After all, you get to keep all of the money you bring in, and you don’t need to share it with the employer. But becoming a successful freelancer takes time, and it’s not for anyone who is looking to make fast money.

When most freelancers start out, they can’t be picky about the work they receive. So if you think freelancing is a way to get out of the tedious and boring assignments your boss at your day job gives you, think again. You will definitely get your chances to be creative and unique, but ultimately, if your client wants to go in a completely different direction than what you’ve proposed, you have to suck it up and do what they want – even if you don’t like it. Not only that, but all of a sudden, you will have to do everything that comes with running a business.  You will speak with the clients, create the marketing campaigns, pay the invoices, and do all of the administration work – including filing, answering phone calls, and replying to an endless sea of e-mails.

Time management skills are essential

This is one of the most important aspects of freelancing, but it’s also the hardest. When you work for yourself, you can forget about working a regular 9-5 schedule at the beginning. You will most likely end up working long hours for the first few years until you get more established. It’s also likely that you will end up wasting a lot of time in the first year, as you set up processes and ways to keep track of everything that works for you.

When I quit my full-time job, I thought I’d open up so much more time to write. But I think I average about 40% of my time on administration duties. It’s insane! But the administrative side of the business is extremely important, and if you don’t keep on top of it all, you will miss out on a lot of opportunities, and probably piss people off in the process. And I realized that a “regular” schedule just isn’t going to work for me – especially being on the other side of the world and fighting the time difference.

The competitive edge

You likely won’t be be the first in your line of work, and you certainly won’t be the last either. So in order to succeed, you will need to market and promote yourself harder than anyone else who is already doing it, and better than those who are coming up behind you. So if competition scares you, then freelancing is not the right career move for you.

Check out your competition and see how you can stand out from everyone else. Think about ways you can show prospective clients why you are the best option, and if you can tap into a niche market, or find some sort of hook, try to see where it will take you.

It can get lonely

Being by myself all day, every day was a really, really hard adjustment for me, and I know a lot of people end up back in the corporate world just because they can’t handle the loneliness and isolation. While social interaction does happen as a freelancer, you probably won’t have co-workers around to joke with, or anyone to bounce ideas off of. Some people just work better and are more creative when they have people around them.

I expect that when I move back to Vancouver, I will have more interaction with people during the day, but the thought of going back to a full-time job has crossed my mind more than once. Because while part of my hesitation with continuing as a freelancer is the lack of interaction with people, it’s also the income (or rather, the savings) that I miss. I consider myself to be one of the lucky bloggers who has been able to make a living from blogging and writing, but the opportunity to work long hours won’t be around forever (children will eventually come, and I won’t have the energy to work 12+ hour days). So if I can stretch myself, work more, and save more towards the future, I should do it while I can. At least, that’s my thought right now. We’ll see what happens in four months when I get back home.

Using social media to find a job

Most of us use some form of social media every day. And if you’re anything like me, you’re on all the time. :) But how many of us are utilizing the power of these social media platforms to advance our careers?

While many job hunting tips talk about cleaning up social media profiles, making accounts private, or using a false name, often times our social media presence can work for us. In fact, Reppler – a social media monitoring service – conducted a survey of hiring professionals, and found that nearly 70 per cent of employers would hire a candidate because of what they saw about them on a social networking site.

Social media has helped me countless times before. My Moneyville/Toronto Star editor found me through my blog. I got my Canadian Living job through contacts via Twitter. I found and hired both my real estate agent and my blog web designer from Twitter. Now, I’m working for my real estate agent as his Marketing Manager. A few months ago, I inquired about a freelance job posting on Craigslist. The employer contacted me about 20 minutes after I submitted my resume, to tell me that he already follows me on Twitter, and felt like he already knows me and what I am capable of. Having an active Twitter account automatically gave me an advantage over any other candidate, because of the connection I had already made with that employer online.

Having a social media presence can positively impact your face-to-face networking activities, and can also help you tap into the hidden job marketing of positions that are not advertised. Maybe I go a bit overboard, because I don’t just have to standard Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. I also have Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads, FourSquare, Vimeo, and Formspring. :) But I use them because I like them, and I know that if I’m not on those websites, some other person is – and they could one day be going for the job that I want!

Here are a few tips I’ve found to using social media effectively:

Understand how you are perceived

Creating a social media presence takes time. It is not an overnight employment fix. But, if you utilize it correctly, it can be a huge benefit to your job search in the future, and to your credibility as a professional.

In order to make sure you are conveying the right message about yourself to other people online, consider using a social media monitoring website like Reppler. It’s a completely free service that scans through the biggest social media networks – like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube – and comes up with an Image Score, shows you any inappropriate content, and advises you of any privacy or security risks in your profiles.

Here are a couple of screen shots I took of my profile to show you how effective Reppler is in analyzing how you are perceived online.

Build your connections

Gone are the days where you have to show up at every face-to-face networking event in order to get business cards and build your professional network. This is arguably one of the biggest benefits of social media, so take advantage of how easy it is to make connections!

There are a few ways to grow your network online: friend or follow those with common interest, participates in Twitter chats, engage in discussion on Facebook pages, and send personalized messages to people you would like to connect with on LinkedIn.

Position yourself as an influencer

As a job seeker, marketing yourself on social media is about crafting your personal brand. And a great way to impress potential employers is to have your own blog about the industry that you are most interested in. Not only will you be able to establish yourself as an influencer and expert in your field, but good content will always get shared and spread throughout social media networks.

I am most interested in personal finance, so that’s what I write about. And within personal finance, my niche is the 20-something crowd. I don’t think this website will ever become one of those broad all-encompassing sites that talk about everything, and I like it that way. When people think of me and my blog, I want them to think about frugal living, how to get out of debt, and growing up. Those are the categories I think I’m most influential in.

Find opportunities

Social media isn’t about pushing out messages and waiting to attract followers and conversation. It’s about pursuing and networking with people – especially those who are more influential than you. As a job seeker, it’s not very often that you get the opportunity to directly communicate with high-ranking executives, CEOs, and industry influencers. Use this to your advantage to connect and engage with the companies and people you want to eventually work for.

You can use the Twitter search function to look for jobs using industry hashtags, or recruiters posting job ads. You can also use LinkedIn or Facebook to look for jobs through company pages. And don’t underestimate the power of your own network. Let people know that you’re looking for work. Word spreads around quickly – and someone might think you’d be the perfect fit for a position with their company.

Take your networking offline

One of the main functions of social media is to build your connections. But you have to remember to take your networking offline and meet face-to-face. That’s where the real magic happens. Attend Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter meet-ups. Check out industry-related conferences, or just invite someone out for coffee to chat and pick their brain. One of the best things about having a blog, and being on social media is getting to meet people in person. :)

How have you been able to utilize social media for career advancement?

Would you relocate for a better job?

In a perfect world, you would find your dream job without having to look very hard. You’d make good money, have great benefits, love your co-workers, and live exactly where you want to be.

Reality, however, is much different. You’ve probably spent weeks – or even months – trying to find a job in your city that meets all of the criteria you’re looking for – whether it’s salary, location, benefits, or the ideal industry. But only a few lucky people ever get the opportunity to find exactly what they want, where they want it. As for the rest of us? We’ve probably all gotten to the point where we start to consider relocating in an effort to widen our job search.

Just over four years ago, I found myself in a similar situation. I was living in my hometown of Victoria, BC, just about to complete a 12-month government contract position. I had applied to well over 20 different jobs in the city, and was getting discouraged. I was getting job offers for positions I ended up not being interested in, and was being rejected from the ones I really wanted. This led me to expand my job search not only to outside of my city, but also outside of my province. With only a few years of work under my belt, I thought I was willing to consider moving in an effort to gain more experience.

After weeks of phone calls and in-person interviews, I received two job offers – one was a marketing coordinator position for a non-profit organization in Vancouver that paid $40,000. The other was a communications manager position for a small city in Alberta that paid $57,000. The job required 5-7 years of experience, and I only had 2. But they flew me out for an interview, and when they called me a few days later, I was shocked that that they offered me the job. Even though I wasn’t exactly qualified, they said that they saw something special in me, and knew I could handle the job. To this day, that is the biggest compliment I have ever received during a job interview.

Logically, I should have taken the management position in municipal government and moved to Alberta. Not only did it pay (a lot) more, but it would have given me experience at a job (communications manager for an entire city? come on!) that I wouldn’t have been able to get for years (if ever) in Victoria or Vancouver.

But I ended up choosing the low-paying non-profit job in Vancouver instead. Here’s why:

Lack of a support network

It was extremely intimidating just thinking about leaving a place where I have friends, family, and a network of people that would be there to help me if I needed them. I’ve moved away from home before – to attend university in Michigan – and I was so homesick during that time, that I ended up coming home before I finished my degree. I didn’t want to leave, only to have the exact same thing happen. It wasn’t fair to me, or to my prospective employer.

Starting over in a new city

For some people moving to a new city is an adventure. It will take time to learn the city and the surrounding area, make new friends, and get comfortable. I knew that because I wasn’t planning on settling down in Alberta, starting over in a new city for less than 5 years just wasn’t worth it for me. If I was going to leave my hometown, I wanted to move to a city I could see myself living in for the foreseeable future.

Financial costs to relocating

Moving expenses can sometimes cost thousands of dollars – especially if relocating means you will have to fly instead of drive. Some costs associated with moving can be deducted on your tax return, but since you usually have to pay for the costs up front and get reimbursed later, many people looking for work just wouldn’t be able to afford it.

I was lucky that the employer was offering a generous $5,000 moving allowance. But moving all my stuff to another province wasn’t the only financial cost to relocation. I was a 3 hour drive from a major airport – meaning I would get less visits from friends and family, and I wouldn’t be able to afford to go home as often as I wanted. Living in Vancouver, my family and friends are only a 90 minute ferry ride away.

Opportunity for growth

With some occupations, only certain locations will offer you room for growth. As someone in marketing and communications, most opportunities are found in large cities. I knew that as soon as I outgrew the position in the town in Alberta, I would have nowhere to go, and would be forced to relocate again. I think it’s really important to weigh both the short-term and long-term benefits of any job, and where you could see yourself 5 or 10 years down the road if you decide to take a specific career path.

When I turned down the job in Alberta, they offered me more money to start, as well as a guaranteed raise after 6 months. It was an extremely attractive offer, and everyone thought I was a fool to turn it down. But you know what? Four years later, I’m still so happy with my decision. I couldn’t imagine how different my life would be had I chosen that path. I certainly wouldn’t have met so many great people in Vancouver. I wouldn’t be living in Germany, and I probably wouldn’t be a freelancer either.

With Statistics Canada revealing that there are 3.3 unemployed people in Canada for every job vacancy, if you don’t mind packing up and relocating to a new city, it might be easier to find the kind of job that you’re looking for. I wasn’t willing to do it 4 years ago, but I don’t think I can see myself living in Vancouver for the long-term, so who knows where I’ll end up down the road. :)

Would you consider relocation for a better job?

My new freelance gig

One of my 2012 goals was to take on a third steady freelance client. And now I can say that I have accomplished that goal! This new job has been in the works since December, but I can finally unveil that I am now Marketing Manager for a Realtor in my neighbourhood. In fact, he’s the Realtor that helped me buy my home! :)

I’ll be working about 10-15 hours a week, and instead of getting a salary, I will receive a set amount from every sale he makes. This works well for me right now, since I am abroad and can only do so much. Once I return at the end of August, we will talk about potentially going on a salary + bonus structure, or keeping it the way it is.

This is a great opportunity for me to combine my love of the real estate industry with my interest in marketing and social media. And I’ll be working with a Realtor that I completely respect and have a lot of faith in. Which I think is a rare thing to find in the industry. :) I’m excited because it will allow me to expand my freelancing business away from writing and blogging, and into something I have over 6 years of experience in. This means that, should I ever want to get a full-time job in marketing in the future, my skill set will remain current and up-to-date. This is very important to me, because I will be so much more employable, and it will make any future transition back into marketing a lot easier.

It’s my last day at my full-time job

Today is my last day at my full-time job. And in exactly one week, I’ll be on a plane to Europe.

The excitement of this plan is gone. It was fun when we were buying plane tickets and talking about sightseeing. But now that it’s real, and actually happening? I’m feeling a nervousness that I haven’t felt in years – if, ever. I haven’t been able to sleep, and I always feel worried.

I crave stability, and the decisions that I’ve made over the last month have me completely stressed out. It’s not the move to Germany – that part I’m really excited about. It’s the whole “I just quit my job to blog” job situation. I knew I would feel this way, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But I thought I’d be more prepared for it.

I shouldn’t feel so anxious. This month I’ve already brought in almost $5,000 in freelance income. I picked up a new ongoing client (will blog about it soon), and am negotiating to pick up another one. My time as a freelancer is already going to hover around 40 hours/week. There is no shortage of ways to make money, or clients to pick up. In fact, I’m so busy that I’m turning down offers. But my fear is that it will all dry up and go away. And I’ll be left behind.

And therein lies the huge downfall to being your own boss. It’s the reason why I’ve stayed away from full-time freelancing – it’s in my nature to stress out about everything. I can’t help it. Even though it seems fine right now, I’ll always be worried.

So whenever I start to feel that panic inside me bubble up to the surface (which is often), I stop whatever it is that I’m doing, and just breathe. Then, I think of something positive. Like: I have a fully funded Emergency Fund at $10,000. I’m a hard worker. I haven’t even begun to tap into my potential as a freelancer. And the fact that everything always works itself out in the end.

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