Mutterings and utterings of a budding novelist

Posts tagged “success

Surviving – Year One as a Freelancer.

Every morning, without fail, my phone bleeps all manner of notifications – most annoyingly of course are the numerous alarms in place to get me out of my pit. But one particular chime is for that app ‘Timehop’ with the funny looking dinosaur. And before I get up, I usually have a quick scan through it – and it usually drags up memories of this time last year when I had just been made redundant and was frantically job searching.

And yes, that was a scary time. Applying for job after job and watching my bank balance slowly dwindle away. All my years of reinforcing my strong beliefs of Law of Attraction and Positivity was being put to the ultimate test, and my god was it a lifeline!

As I’ve said before I decided finally in February this year to give up looking for employment and employ myself. And why not! I had basically the same pc I had at my old work (modded slightly better) and people were already asking me for work.

So I threw the application forms and CVs from my sight and started putting together my own company. And Phoenix Designs was born! Named after a storyline I’d had outlined for years (19 books in total!!). I sat down and wrote out a plan for self-employment.

Year One was simple – ‘Survive.’
Somehow I knew I would be ok if I worked my ass to the bone and kept a positive outlook, and looking back now I can be proud of myself for getting this far. From working out Daily routines which constantly changed and evolved, to trying out new programs that would aid productivity, to enlisting the help of friends – old and new to get me through. There are far too many to list here who have helped me, but my family know how supportive they’ve been, and how grateful I am. My friends too – driving me around when I needed it (Kev), showing me the ropes (Dan), as well as countless others supporting me have been invaluable. Even my little flat mate Wendy has been amazing, not only for helping me out with rent on the odd occasion I wasn’t paid on time (and never complaining once!), to simply giving me the human interaction that is lacking from a job you do from home. I don’t think her or her boyfriend Steve know how much it means just to say hello to them and break the cabin fever.

Also my fantastic pal Annette – giving me personal coaching and calming my fears etc has been incredible. Reiki healing, EFT, meditation, hypnotism. as well as simply being an amazing friend has proven invaluable and I’m not sure I would have made it through the year without her help.

Those closest to me know how hard I’ve work this year, often easily putting in 20hr days across a week. But I never seem to have any problems sleeping from the second my head hits the pillow. I never seem to need much sleep which is always a bonus.

So I guess now, it’s time to figure out the journey from here for the next year. Obviously my own projects have taken a hit this year, I’ve barely written or illustrated anything. Even my reading has been completely pushed to almost nil (Sharon Van Orman! I promise I’m still on with your book!!! :D). So next year I’ll be dedicating a portion of each day to these tasks as they are still part of my dream and should be nurtured accordingly.

Could I go back to working in an office or studio? Probably not now. It used to take me two hours to get to work and another two home. Now my workplace is roughly three feet from my bed. I also love making up my own rules and systems, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and knowing full well that I have full responsibility when it comes to customer satisfaction.

And so, what can I tell you I’ve learned? What tips can I give to help anyone else starting out this way? I guess I should be careful what I say, as some veteran designers may disagree with me. But you know what? Screw them. This is my blog and I’ll tap out these tips as I see fit.

1. Think in terms of ‘Time’ not ‘Money’.
This is something that took me quite a while to figure out. Time is now your currency. So instead of thinking you’ll charge £x for a project, think how long it will take of (uninterrupted (I’ll get to this) work to complete and charge accordingly to a set (immovable) rate of something like £15 or £20 per hour. If you work for a company who pay a set amount for a piece of work, then make sure that this also fits into the time/pay system.
One other thing to be aware of too – now you work at home, many people will assume to do jack shit all day except watch Jeremy Kyle and thus are ok to pick them up, wait for a package, relieve their boredom on their day off etc. Now I’m not saying not to do these things; after all, you’re a freelancer and can work when you please! Just be aware that doing these things cost you time, and in essence money. Give your time with care.

2. Forget your website at the start, get work first.
This may sound like a catch-22, because you need people to know who are in order to get work. But this was advice I was given when I was starting out and it was true! You can spend forever perfecting and crafting the ultimate website to draw customers, only to wait…..and wait……for nothing. Even in today’s world of online dominated culture, nothing does more for advertising than word-of-mouth. Your freelance might cough and splutter for a while whilst you get started, but once you’re rolling then you can spend time on your online presence. If you must, a quick Twitter and Facebook account at the start will be just as effective. In fact! These are probably a must as you connect them to your personal profile letting all your friends and family know what you do. There’s an awesome book for mastering social media called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook which I insist you get! 😀

3. Find your own Routine and Systems,
To date now I have had three revised daily routines stuck to the side of my pc, which I continue to change as time goes by. An 8 hour day is a short amount of time to cram in emailing, ordering, calling, messaging, invoicing, eating, financing, and of course – actually working! So getting a routine sorted is paramount in succeeding.

4. Using to-do lists and programs to aid productivity.
It took a while to find a program or combination of programs to feel right in helping to get things done. I’d say Evernote is great but I found myself barely using it. And the same story is with a lot of other programs. In the end I settled on using a combination of Asana for all my main to-do lists and Wunderlist for everything else (money owed, money earned, amends received etc). Asana is great and I have it running constantly on my laptop at the side. If a project comes in you can log it into the site and work out what day you can do it. Then when that day arrives it automatically populates the day’s tasks with the project. Simple yet awesome.

5. Exercise to maintain energy.
Again this comes as almost a paradox as how can you burn energy to get more of it? Bizarrely it’s true though. Now I’m no gym freak or anything like that, but I do have my kinect set up in the living room and do my best to do an hour’s exercise a day. I notice on days I don’t do any exercise I get lethargic a lot earlier. So get out of the chair and do a little exercise.

6. Get out.
Since my desk in my home it’s easy to be stuck in all day and not get some fresh air. I’m fortunate to live beside the sea and a lake which makes my lunchtime breaks a lot more peaceful. Of course if it’s hammering down with rain I won’t go out at all! Ha!

7. Clearing your mind.
This seems to be the biggest cause of procrastination ever, and it’s made even worse when such vast amounts of information is at our fingertips. All day your mind could be buzzing with a million thoughts – I wonder what I’ll have for tea? Who was the lead role in Flash Gordon? I wonder how Aunt Bertha’s 90th party went on. How were the pyramids built? Does Kim Kardashian’s arse have it’s own Twitter account? Before you know it, google is opened, searches are made, Facebook is delved into, 15 things you never knew about Made in Chelsea is read, leading into an endless line of humourous Youtube videos, and shit!! Four hours have passed! What the hell happened?! Even worse, you can barely remember a thing you’ve just looked at?!
Then of course you begin kicking yourself over it, promising tomorrow you’ll do better. Then the cycle repeats.
So the key is to remove this chatter from your mind so you can focus on more important things – like earning a living. But how do you do it?
Well personally I use the first hour of my day to quickly scan what I need to – get out my social network cravings before my brower locks out Facebook for the day (using a Firefox add-on called Leechblock). Then before I exercise I’ll do fifteen minutes of meditation. If you’ve never done it you’ll be surprised how just fifteen minutes of sitting in silence can calm the mind. Try to remove all distractions too. Having an xbox or tv in the room is just asking for trouble.
This is now where I’ll sound like a hypocrite! Sometimes if I’m doing a mundane piece of work, I’ll put on a film (one that I’ve either already seen, or one I don’t have to pay much attention to (so something action packed is out!) as I find the ‘moving wallpaper’ easier to work to.
Also something minimalistic to listen to works wonders too. Spotify has plenty of focus related playlists.

8. Communication.
I think this is one area I excelled at from the start. I guess in today’s society, online scamming and corporate cold-heartedness have made many customers wary. If you can talk to them as a real person and get your emails and phone calls clear and upbeat, then client’s will realise you’re an actual human being, rather than a faceless set of templated responses. I’ve realised that a informal email to a client works better than a stiff multi-syllable worded one. You’ll come across as far more trustworthy and have their interests rather than their payment as the main priority.
Obviously don’t go overboard with this as some clients will see you as a walkover. Keep a level of professionalism and dignity. It helps if you get across you’ve been doing this for years – subconsciously people believe if you’ve been around a while, you obviously know exactly what you’re doing and will be thus less likely to be played like a buffoon.

9. Get your finances in order.
It’s hard to get this right after a long time of having a set wage paid directly into your account. But you’re in the thick of it now. Invoices, chasing payments, dealing with clients who refuse to pay, working out taxes and self-assessments – it’s a complete pain in the arse, and also very rewarding. I’m no expert in this area so I can’t give out any real advice – except this. Log and note down absolutely everything. Receipts, invoices and expenditure. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

10……….you know……screw it! Ignore everything I said.
Take what you will from what I said above, but everyone’s situation is different. I think the best advice I can give is to dive in head first and make your own systems and way of working. If it doesn’t seem to work, then change it until it does. There will be a lot of trial and error but that’s how we grow and evolve. If you’re struggling for work, hammer everywhere you can online and offline. I was doing facebook cover photos on FiveSquids and contests on Freelancer. It all helps. And if you only put out work you’d be happy using yourself – you can’t fail to have clients drawn to you.

11. Never Give Up!
This goes without saying. Some days you may be riding the highest clouds, the next you may be wondering if you’ll even make it through the day. Nobody said it’d be easy, but once you’ve made it you’ll be so happy you did. Just remember, bad times come and go. And if in that particular moment of strife you’re still alive, then you’re able to change the future. Just focus on the present, and do what you need to. Be the inspiration to others and show the haters you won’t ever back down.

And so, on that note, I’ll get back to my day’s task at hand. 😀
Here’s to 2015!
And if you’re still reading this, thank you so much. It’s very much appreciated. Have a fantastic New Year!

Much love!

 

Ken xx

shutterstock_237801106

Advertisements

Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions!

Well, it’s that time of year! Parents of hyperactive kids are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief, santa is already flying off around the world and gorging himself on mince pies and sherry, and taxi drivers are ramping up their rates to ‘Tarif ‘WTF” for all the yuletime revellers.

But once the last piece of turkey has been chomped, and every male in every household is snoozing away to the Queen’s speech, another tradition begins to rear it’s ugly head; the dreaded New Year’s Resolution. Now if you’ve been with my blog for a while you’ll remember I grumbled about these last year, for the exact same reason I’m going to moan about them now.

They simply don’t work.

Ok, that’s a bit harsh. I’m betting quite a few escape through the net and are eventually cemented into truth by the invidual who made them. But on the whole, they fail, and they do so because they put too much pressure on the person who happily declared them. Lifestyle changes do not happen in one single night. They take persistance and determination over time, and gradually become habits. If you have a resolution to lose weight, completely changing your diet and exercise regime overnight and attempting to stick with it puts massive stress and pressure on you and eventually you return to your original way of living.

I believe by making well thought out goals, whatever time of year, you can ease into whatever you wish to accomplish. So if you want to lose weight, you should write this goal down now, think how you’re going to achieve this, and then take small steps towards it. As J.B. Glossinger always says, if you work towards a goal by just 1% a day, you can transform yourself steadily, and you’ll find the transition much, much easier. As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.

A lot of people are beaten down by life. They are on one knee, looking on as the rest of the world jog or sprint past them, wondering (sometimes in jealousy) how they’ve got the strength and luck to muster on. Some are even flat on their face, refusing to go on. The hard truth is, nobody can help you up and onwards, nobody can carry you in their arms and rush you forward like some knight in shining armour.

You have to do this for yourself. Only you hold the key.

Look up, look ahead. What’s in front of you? What does the finish line look like? These are your goals, and they can only be set by you. The problem is most people don’t even know what they are running towards, what their goals are in life. Most see the finish line as death, hoping they get there intact peacefully. And it’s over before they even have chance to wonder what the hell they did with their time on this Earth.

So carry on looking forward, ignore everyone else, for their goals will not match your own. Create the goals, and see them along the path. Get up – somehow, any way you can, grit your teeth, and start stepping forward. Even if it’s just a small shuffle at first. Before you know it, you’ll get momentum going, and suddenly you’ll see your legs begin to run, faster and faster, sweeping you towards a life you’ve always dreamed of.

And not the ticking of the clock, nor the changing of the year can ever halt it.

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, AND NEVER GIVE UP!

EVER!

XX

shutterstock_156116570

 


Rolling with the Punches

This morning whilst getting ready for work I watched a great new episode of the ‘Spirit Science’ series. For those who don’t know about this, it’s a wonderful animated series (the website actually has tons more to it) created by Jordan David and starring a character called Patchman, delving into all things spiritual.

The website is here. http://www.thespiritscience.net

Now today’s episode was all about waves and cycles and theorised that all things, whether natural or man made, work in cycles. It went on to explain that within out own lives good times can cycle into bad times before spurning on into more good times, and that this is a natural way etc etc. And that by pushing away and resisting the bad times we can actually harm our own natural cycle and denying further better times in the future.

This is actually quite relevant in my own life at the moment. Now rather than risk losing my job by talking about my place of employment, let’s just say a few things have changed in my day to day job, resulting in less income – quite a substantial amount.

Now rather than bitch and moan about these things, I’ve decided to embrace this downturn and turn it into something positive. Because of these changes I now have more free time on my hands. So as well as being able to get more of my own personal work completed, I’ve decided to put together a fresh list of goals which I’ve named ‘Operation Conrad’ (after Charles Conrad who wrote The Richest Man in Babylon – an awesome book everyone should read!) in order to get fresh freelance work. This includes things like signing up to many online portfolio sites, cleaning up my book cover design website, and strengthening my online presence.

I’ve got into the idea that the recent changes in my life are a well needed kick up the ass from the universe. And that like Spirit Science says – this will lead on to much better things.

I think we all go through difficult times in our lives, and that we should not only allow them into our lives, but embrace them. They help us to take a step back and assess our situation. Then by correcting the course we’re on, we can make much better progress in our lives.

The bottom line is that without bad or difficult times, we can never truly appreciate the good times. Everything happens for a reason, and we are constantly receiving symbols and messages in which direction to go – whether through the Universe, God, a higher power – whatever you want to call it.

Just keep on your feet, keep running and smash through any walls that come your way, laughing, roaring and gritting your teeth along the way.

Never give up.

Ever.

shutterstock_93842317

 


Catching a Break

Today Amazon.co.uk has reported that they have sold more copies of E.L. James’ astoundingly erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey than the entire library of Harry Potter books combined, making her their best-selling author ever.

No whilst I may screw my face up at the very notion of the book (to me it’s simply the premise to a porn movie), you can’t help but applaud James on managing to break open the barrier between traditionally published and self-published books. In fact she’s blown it wide open. Most critics will turn their nose up at any self-published book, deeming it inferior to one that has taken its journey through a well-established publisher. But does that mean it isn’t what the general public want to read?

To me the world of novel-writing has taken a bizarre turn in the past decade. Whilst it has always been difficult to get published, even more so now with the world’s economy, publishers have always looked upon each submission with such enormous criticism that they could only read the first page of an author’s prized work before uttering ‘Meh!’ and casting it into a rapidly filling bin.

Now this could dash the dreams of the less-determined writer, but the invention of e-books and e-book readers has allowed rejected authors a fresh chance to show their literature to the world. Of course this has its downsides – the market has become rapidly pumped full of stories that look like the reluctantly penned homework of a ten year old. And not only this, but the choice of books on sites like e-bay has become so vast that each author once again has little chance of getting their work to an audience.

It’s almost like being in a stadium filled to the brim with people all singing as loud as they can, in the hope somebody will recognise their talent above the rest.

 

So how did E.L. James manage to do so well?

Well since the book began as fan fiction for Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, it already recieved a bit of attention. It’s overly erotic themes received a few raised eyebrows on the site she posted it, and thus it was removed.

She placed the book on her own blog before again removing it to sell it in e-book and  print-on-demand paperback versions.

Then through the use of blogs and word-of-mouth she managed to get the message out. And suddenly the demand poured in.

For the rest of us authors though, with books that are tamer and less scandalous, trying to follow in James’ isn’t quite as easy. Even for those with novels of similar tones, the road to success may have been built, but it’s now crammed with traffic as copycat novels spring up.

I guess there’s no true way to find the big break. But I do feel there are things you can do to help. We’ve all heard the saying – ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know.’ I feel there is no truer statement. Which is why it pays to be polite and respectful. Whilst working as a barman years ago, I did my best to be friendly to every single person I served, no matter how disrespectful they were to me. I can truly say that this paid off. Not only did it lead me to my friend and business partner Bev, and my girlfriend Wendy, but it has also brought numerous friends and acquaitences in all professions on whom I can call on for help.

Stopping to help someone get their car started? Who knows if that person is an artist who will design you a book cover in the future?

Helping an old lady with her shopping? Who knows if that lady’s daughter is a marketing consultant that could be a great contact in the future?

Which is why I feel a true, genuine and decent etiquette must always be employed both online and offline. There should be no ego-strutting, no borderline narcissistic personality disorders, and certainly no angry retaliation when somebody takes the time to critique your work. After all, we are all trying to sell our work to ‘people’. Why shouldn’t we treat ‘people’ with decency in order to encourage help and sales.

 

I’ve just finished Richard Branson’s autobiography and one incident has stuck with me.

When Branson was in his twenties and struggling to build Virgin Records as a successful record company, he found he could escape certain taxes by falsely declaring purchased records were to be sold abroad. So with filled vans he would take records to Calais, get a stamp to show the stock was being transported abroad, then turn around and sell them in England. Of course authorities soon caught on to this, and in the dead of the night Branson recieved a telephone call from an unknown man who tipped him off about a coming raid on Branson’s shops and warehouses, telling him to shine a blacklight over all his records and hide the ones marked ‘A’. When asked why the man was helping him, he solemnly replied that Branson had spent hours preventing one of his friends from committing suicide years early when the future billionaire manned a phoneline helping troubled teenagers.
Whilst of course I don’t advocate evading tax, this story just goes to show that good deeds can and do eventually catch up with you. Who knows, the next time you retrieve a lost wallet for someone, it could be a very grateful Stephen King. 🙂

Success!