Voxate Writing & Editing

South African Writer, Copywriter and Editor
Browsing Freelancing

Time Wasters


Time is precious and every second counts. Heard these worn-out cliches before? Never have they been truer than for a freelancer. Although I am great at wasting time, wastage of any other kind is a pet hate of mine. I’m writing this article in an effort to harness my own weaknesses and to help us all to identify the weak spots.

Here are some of the time-wasters that occupy our time, minds and energy:

Unnecessary meetings – clients may have time to sip languorously at frothy cappuccinos, but you need to reign them in and take control of your time. Email is a wonderful resource. Use it. What can be achieved in a 90-minute meeting can, usually, be accomplished in an email that takes less than 10 minutes to type.

Social media – Facebook and Twitter are no longer just ‘social’. They actually accomplish a lot in the spheres of business and advertising. However, logging into your accounts to check your business pages or profiles will likely distract you to check your personal messages, contacts and updates. It takes an enormous amount of discipline, but it is absolutely non-negotiable to stay away from social media during times in which you should be concentratng and churning out reams of inspired work.

Saying yes – just don’t. Learn to decline jobs that are not worth it for you and learn to delegate.

Untidiness – *guilty* The truth is that piles of paperwork and jumbled notes is just plain wasteful. It wastes our time and mental ‘space’. Nothing irritates me as much as not being able to find a quote or a brief, and it happens on almost a daily basis. It hasn’t quite reached ridiculous proportions yet, and I’m hoping that this article is the antidote to my untidiness. Can you spot the magic wand yet?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you do to use your time as efficiently as possible. I need all the help I can get.

When to Say “No” To a Client


Freelancers find it incredibly difficult to refuse a client or a project. This is no surprise, as we depend very much on each job to pay the bills. Still, there are times that we are going to have to say “no” – whether it is for our sanity, our morals or our reputation.

One of the most important things to remember (certainly for me) is that agreeing to do every job that arises actually diminishes your ability to do each of them as well as if you had less on your plate. Quantity overrides quality. So, to maintain a trusted, positive reputation, you‘d be better off learning to prioritise and to refuse certain jobs.

Secondly, some clients just aren’t worth the stress that they cause. Whether they are micro-managers or late-payers, these types of clients can induce irrational bouts of mania (foaming and the mouth, nervous tics…) in you. No amount of money is worth that. Of course, everyone has their quirks and there is simply no such thing as the perfect client (or freelancer, for that matter). So, I am really referring to those clients that are bad. Really bad.

I have also said “no” to clients when I do not ethically agree with their product or service. For example, a clinic that offers abortions or a game lodge that invites tourists for the purposes of hunting animals. While I know that these are matters of choice, I personally do not want to be involved. Also, I know that I can’t give it the respect that the client requires. They are better off hiring someone that understands their products / services and can give them the attention that they deserve.

Saying “no” doesn’t have to be rude. In fact, you should always be polite, no matter how strongly you feel about something. Keep it simple by saying something like:

  • I’d love to help, but I’m currently swamped with XYZ.
  • Unfortunately, I won’t be able to work on it until 12 XYZ 2012. Can it wait until then?
  • I will not be able to assist, but perhaps you could contact XYZ.

Like all things, saying “no” gets easier with practice. It is also made a little less stressful when you know that you are doing it for the right reasons. Happy writing!

The Perils of Freelance


You won’t catch me admitting to too many downsides of being a freelancer. However, even the happiest of the self-employed will probably agree that there are some hurdles; fleeting moments that have us gnawing our nails down to bloody stumps. If you can anticipate and deal with these effectively, you’ll probably be a happy freelancer. If not, you’re likely going to find the entire experience far more stressful than it’s worth. Here are some of the challenges that I experience:

Cabin Fever
As I sit typing this article, I am in a local coffee shop, Cobblestone, sipping on a cappuccino and trying to decide between the smoked salmon flat bread and the Portuguese omelette with Chorizo. No matter how inspiring and inviting your office, or how much you love wearing slippers all day, you are bound to get sick of being in the same place all day every day. I even slipped on a pair of heels for my breakfast venture – just for the sheer thrill of a change! Of course, this problem is fairly easy to resolve. Get a laptop or an iPad and make a concerted effort to vary your work environment. Also, make sure that your office is comfortable, but always organised, so that you’re not confusing the frustration of chaos with cabin fever.

The Treadmill Syndrome
When I started to plan for my freelancing days, I was sure that I would be spending my mornings walking on the beach, lunching with friends, enjoying sundowners, and whipping up some fascinating reads in-between. Nope. I stumble through to the office with my first cup of coffee, barely having stretched before flopping into my chair to reply to emails sent by clients (who apparently have no need to sleep). On a Sunday after lunch, I slip into my office and start outing some ideas down. In the evening, when my husband starts lying back in the recliner, I’m sitting with the laptop open, typing away about sharks, eco-friendly kids’ projects or the responsibilities of the maid of honour. It’s easy to fall into the trap of never stopping. Eventually, any time spent sitting in the garden becomes guilt-ridden. This has to stop and I’ll start applying my own advice. Set strict work hours and stick to them as closely as possible.

Freaking Over Finances
While the appeal of making your own money, determining your own salary is undeniable, there is a definite downside to your income being solely dependent on the amount of work you do in any given month. Your permanent employer may have a bad month without you batting an eyelash. However, when you are freelancing or self-employed, this shortfall has an entirely different effect. What I’ve found effective is to give myself a salary – an amount that I absolutely need every month. I save the surplus for the months in which clients are closed or work is slow. Another great way of ensuring a steady income is to work on a retainer basis with one or two regular clients.

Having mentioned these factors, it’s so important for me to stress how very happy I am since I started freelancing. For every negative aspect, there are 3500 positive points. If you are thinking about starting on your own and need some tips or encouragement, feel free to send me a mail – amelia{at}voxate{dot}co{dot}za.

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