Sunday, March 28, 2021

A Freelance Gig to Consider: Photo Stylist

Have you ever visited a local restaurant's website to order food and thought the image doesn't do the meal justice?  Or you wouldn't order something because the picture looks so gross?  Then there's photographing the body, especially fuller figures that are sensitive to light.  You may be a natural shutterbug that always gets the good shot at family get-togethers or any occasion, so why not capitalize on your talents?  Photo styling basics are skills that can pay off if you are a blogger or web designer with a client base.

Equipment Doesn't Have to Cost More than Rent

Whether your secret is in the filters or knowing how to naturally manipulate light and the subject, or a little of both, these skills are seldom learned overnight.  If you check out the above video, the startup costs are minimal.  However, I do highly recommend using a light box.  These are mostly inexpensive and some smaller models can be folded to fit into any tight space.  Normally, I've spent around $30-40 for something that's not too flimsy and offers a decent built-in light source.

I've taken a few photography classes and while the latest point-and-shoot cameras have obvious advantages for the amateur, investing in a hybrid model brings the best of both worlds.  Once you learn some simple shooting basics, you really won't have much need for extra lenses, lights, and so on.  A few years back, I got a Nikon P350 for under $350 and it's served me well.

Photo Styling: Consumer Goods or Food?

I'd say go for both but it depends on you and your resources.  In other words, food styling is an art in itself.  Think about it, when we buy burgers, the patties aren't always glistening with meat juice or covered in bright, colorful veggies between a fluffy bun.  So yeah, a little advertising (as in a mild lie) goes into the process, and making that happen takes a little work.  I'll get back to this a little later.

On the other hand, shooting everyday products is a good way to learn how to make marketable images. If you decide to incorporate people into your shots, please have them sign a model release form (yes, even if it's grandma who just wants to help out).  Once you get a few good shots on hand, you can build a portfolio to sell yourself to clients in need of new photography for their web presence or sell stock image packs that can be downloaded.

Where the Jobs Are

Monday, March 22, 2021

Should You Continue Applying to Content Writing Companies?


The above video brings out many valid points for those who like to blog or write for content companies.  Some of these tips I plan to use for my own freelance biz because there's always room for improvement or get money a little faster, right?  Even if your money is good at the moment, things have a way of changing and sometimes it takes someone outside of our circle to point out these factors.

Here are my own cliff notes on freelance content writing today.  It's not all bad but hear me out, please - 

  • Content companies should only be used to fill in gaps.  Even better, register with no more than three that have been around for years and have minimal complaints.  The reason being is that many companies (past and present) are like that person you meet in a nightclub.  You may or may not know their real name.  You may get paid for your required sample job but watch out for those high payout minimums, they could be a trap to NEVER pay you.  Or worse, bad there may be no future jobs due to bad management.

  • Look at the matter as a business and not a job.  When we work for another employer, there's a set hourly rate that usually goes up with the cost of living or how often raises are given.  Seldom do non-management positions allow for salary negotiation at the midway point.  While this works for a company that will give employees continuous work and benefits, clients are a different breed.  Don't be afraid to turn down low rates or ask for more money as milestones are completed.  If you decide to include a loss leader (freebies) ensure there's something in return like engagement or lead generation.

  • While content writing can be a cool way to earn money in your spare time, full-time work can be draining.  Maybe monotonous is a better word and while this may work for you personally, it can turn into a rut. If you find yourself writing content for a long time, either specialize or learn how to create other forms of media.  The Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) offers a number of low-cost online classes in multimedia.  Even if branching doesn't interest you, find a way to make your written content stand out.  Either become an expert or find ways to effectively fight writer's block.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Should You Join a Women's Networking Group?


Often we are no more than three persons away from meeting THAT individual who can change our lives forever.  We've heard the stories, a chance meeting somewhere strange, an encounter that wasn't supposed to happen, or even that mutual acquaintance who may be completely oblivious about their hidden superpower that has a positive impact on your business endeavors.

Or you may fall into the other category of people who have paid memberships to multiple business networking groups but are really unsure about the purpose.  The good news is that not all of these operate the same but, like other aspects of your biz, you want for this to be an investment that will pay off.  Meaning that sometimes a free membership may pay off in little time or you may want to take advantage of trial membership if finances are tight at the moment.  Here are some other things worth considering...

What are You REALLY Looking For?

A lot of us introverts get drawn in by the appeal of meeting new people and maybe even feel that if we're paying for the privilege, it may snap us out of our somewhat antisocial behaviors.  Yeah...well, it doesn't always work out that way, even if we manage to light discussion boards on fire with an invigorating conversation.  While Zoom meetings are the main alternative to face-to-face meetings, the pandemic has affected how we converse compared to live sessions.

If the expansion of a social network is a realistic goal, joining a couple of groups can be essential if both parties have active social media accounts.  Then you should look at common ground.  Are you part of a niche industry that has a boy's club mentality or history?  Often careers in entertainment, law, and medicine often benefit from camaraderie shared by women who aren't looking to slash another's throat professionally.

Monday, March 8, 2021

A Freelance Gig to Consider: Bookkeeper

I realize that my selections tend to be out of the box but here's a gig that'll always be in demand because a smart business person wants to know how much they are REALLY making.  While programs like MS Excel and QuickBooks make it easy to track financial records and pay monthly expenses, it helps to know what purpose each of those columns serves, as some people can incorrectly categorize their revenue.

Getting Trained

There are a number of options including community college, which may offer for-credit or noncredit options.  The good thing about accounting majors is that many classes are held online and there are some that run more than once a semester.  You can also invest in training programs offered directly by accounting software companies. 

Speaking from experience, it may help to supplement with traditional learning of terms and steps needed to complete an accounting cycle for a small business. I'm not a fan of proprietary institutions that run TV ads during Jerry Springer (even if they call themselves a college or university), so it may pay off to try a local learning institution that's been around for a minute. While bookkeeping certifications aren't necessary, they can place you above the competition in terms of promoting your skillset. If you want to keep training costs at a minimum while gaining experience, registering with a temp agency is one way to get to work quickly.

Getting Work

The nice thing about hanging out at a temp agency (and this is for the sake of getting your feet wet) is you're there when job orders come in.  The placement specialist is looking to score ASAP and you tightening your Excel skills right in their presence can be a win if you're between gigs.  Saves them from making phone calls.

It's best to get some education and experience before setting up shop.  Yes, I know some videos say differently but who wants to take the time to file paperwork, buy equipment and office supplies unsure of whether they can even do this?  While a person who's good with numbers or details may excel in this type of business, it's not a 100% guarantee.

Also, if you look at the many work-at-home companies that hire bookkeepers, at least three years of experience is needed to get signed on.  On the other hand, some people find success when they can get clients on their own.  There are some communities that believe wholeheartedly in being their own boss and this continues for generations, along with those who find freelancing to be a necessity.  Even if people want to fly under the radar, there are many benefits to paying taxes regularly and on time.

Being All You Can Be

While competition may be stiff out there, one way to separate yourself from the crowd is to specialize.  Service occupations like hairdressing, food, or importing are growing fields that have their own ins and outs.  You may know of resources that'll help your clients earn or save more money.  Tax preparer certifications may also be beneficial.

Finally, jumping in blind is highly discouraged and most of us can feel when we're in way over our heads.  Some clients may try to cut corners knowing they need the services of a certified public accountant (CPA) or enrolled agent (a tax preparer that represents someone in court).  I've even had agency reps try to place me in temp gigs where the job really called for an entry-level accountant or someone with at least five years of bookkeeping experience.  Long story short, don't play around with client money, and definitely don't sell yourself short trying to get paid.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Five Ways Aspiring Freelancers Can Shut Down the Haters


You have a dream to be your own boss but zero support.  Friends tell you to go where the money is, your mate may tell you to stick with your regular job, and your family cares about stability.  All of those things may make sense but life is short and letting things pass you by can lead to feelings of regret.  While I just told you something you probably already know, each day is crucial to you becoming the person you desire.

Now, haters are a unique bunch.  Often they have aspirations they want to pursue but don't know how or are scared of failure.  They may have failed at something when they were younger and the memory won't go away.  Although this situation is sad, you don't have to be a part of their misery.  Let a psychologist handle that one.

Back to you.  It helps first to look at all aspects of freelancing or running a small business.  Yes, some areas are easy to enter with low cost and zero overhead...but is it for you?  Some professions may require you to return to school or join a networking group to learn the ins and outs. Do your homework before you tell your boss/job where to go.

While every situation is different, money is earned the same way.  Yup, it's only with an active client base you can experience success and that takes work.  The competition was stiff 12 years ago when the recession hit and the pandemic has forced many to find a new way to make money.  We're not all meant to be cybersecurity specialists, nurses, or Wal-Mart store personnel. This means that more people doing what they can to make things happen instead of waiting on their unemployment check.

So, here are some basics that will let most people know that you're serious.  Yes, there are many books and online tutorials that cover this but you can't always live in the moment.  Having a real game plan not only helps you get ahead but acts as a guideline for when things fall through.

1. Save as much of your money as possible.  If you need to go frugal, go for it because there's a chance that your living above your means anyway.  Most freelancers will say doing work they enjoy for longer hours makes them not miss things like frivolous shopping trips. It also covers you in the case of no-/slow-paying clients.  Also, saving early will spare you from having to lean on haters for spare cash later.  

2. Recognize the difference between a gig worker, freelancer, and small business owner.  While all three pay taxes directly to the government after earning a certain amount, the possibility of growth is key here.  For instance, someone who races through Whole Paycheck as an Amazon contractor may enjoy certain freedoms but this is different than someone who has set up their own delivery operation.  The former may have advantages for students and others looking to make a few dollars.  However, time has a way of passing and one's cost of living is something to consider.

3. Do not make outsourcing companies your primary or singular source of income.  Don't get me wrong!  These are great for getting your feet wet and possibly networking (within designated guidelines) but there's no accountability for when clients go away with your work.  Others that require prepayment (like rideshare or delivery services) sometimes require contractors work all damn day to make a modest living.  Once again, a person may feel being in the outdoors instead of a stuffy office is a better choice for the moment, think about the money, honey.

4.  Make a practical productivity plan.  If you work online, it's easy to get distracted during slow periods.  Allocate how much time will be spent proposing new clients, tending to social media duties, or administrative tasks.  This is different than a formal business plan, as it describes which tasks should be completed on each day of the week.  Newbies often find they want to do it all - from bookkeeping to web design - but maintaining a balance is a challenge, to say the least.  I encourage giving it a try, though!

via Gfycat

5. Brush off the haters altogether.  Sometimes, you may realize they weren't your friends to begin with, and moving ahead may be a sign for you to part ways.  Families may know your weaknesses (and may remember these better than your strengths) but there's no law that says you can't prove them wrong.  Just use caution and keep your network relevant to what you're trying to achieve in your personal and professional life.  Either way, just replace the losers with people who you can learn from and are willing to offer constructive criticism.