I know the snow isn’t gone for everyone but it is for me (although I’m still waiting for the sunny days) and as a result I’m feeling the itch to get my spring cleaning on and bin the purge. But I know I can’t do it all. To avoid overwhelm and failure, this year I’m keeping things streamlined and simple. Here are my spring cleaning essentials for the busy person who has better things to do but still really really really wants to spring clean.
Top Five Spring Cleaning Essentials
Make a plan
I love this spring cleaning planner from Living Well Spending Less. Not only does it force you to clarify your “why” and break down your cleaning plan into manageable steps, but it gives you space to write your top five spring cleaning goals. I love it! And even better, it’s a free download for a limited time.
Make your own cleaners
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be expensive. If you download the spring cleaning planner jump to page 13 for a bunch of DIY cleaner recipes. Of course my favourite is my DIY Shower Cleaner followed by my DIY Window Cleaner.
Purge your closet and create a capsule wardrobe
I’ll admit, this is the one I haven’t quite completed. I do quarterly “wear everything in my closet and get rid of everything I won’t/can’t wear” events but haven’t been able to pare down my wardrobe to a capsule-size…yet. But it’s a goal. One I’m circling. I love this how-to guide from The Urban Umbrella although if you’re just looking for a cheat sheet, this is a good one.
Sell your extra stuff
I love this tip from Side Hustle Nation. Embrace the purge, then sell it. Just because you’re not using an item doesn’t mean it’s not valuable or usable. In fact, it may be just what another person is searching for. Why not make a few bucks off your spring cleaning? I don’t know about you but it sure motivates me!
Spring clean your email
No kidding! Just because you don’t trip over your virtual files doesn’t mean they don’t overwhelm you. I remember a time when 600 emails in my inbox was normal. What!? Too many! These Email Inbox Management Tips from Fizzle were just what I needed to take my overflowing inbox by the horns and get it down to zero. True story. I got my inbox to zero and every Friday I spend a few minutes getting it back down to something reasonable. And I can’t tell you how amazing it feels.
Alright! These are my spring cleaning essentials—I hope you find some inspiration from this list or at least the courage to tackle one pile of junk this season. Oh, and I hope you’ll get unburied from the snow soon.
When you’re a hungry freelance writer or getting started in the industry it’s difficult to know where to look for work. Things like job boards, Craigslist, and cold emailing queries are what people trend towards but these are (in general) low paying, competitive, and an exhausting hustle. Your chances of landing solid clients are low so your pitch rate has to be high.
If you’re wondering how established freelance writers generate leads they’ll tell you most of their work comes through warm leads (existing relationships) and referrals. Even if you’re just starting out these options are available to you too, the trick is letting people know you’re available so they think of you when an opportunity comes up.
The best way to let people know you’re available is by saying you’re available. It’s easy to look at your social media profiles as places where friends and family connect with you, so there’s no reason to talk about your business (don’t they already know what you do?) but what better place to find referrals than your friends and family list?
And don’t assume they’re aware of what you do or even understand it. Do you know the details of your entire network? I don’t. Take assumption out of the picture and optimize your social profiles for your freelance writing business. Lay it out for them so it’s easy for them to think of you when they hear about someone looking for a writer.
Another reason to optimize your social media profiles is because your reach is wide on social. A potential client is more likely to run across you on Twitter or LinkedIn before ever seeing your website. You want to ensure you tell any potential clients who you are, what you do, and why they should hire you.
Five tips for optimizing your social media profiles
Choose a professional/standout profile picture and cover photo
Your profile photo should be high quality, square, reflect your brand, stand out in news feeds, and be a picture of you.
Your cover photo (on applicable platforms) should be high quality and represent the core values of your brand.
The more consistent your images are across platforms, the better.
Make it easy for people to know who you are/what you do
If you want to capture leads from your social profiles then use your full name or business name. Nothing cute here. A great social media bio explains who you are and what you do, shares your personality, and targets your niche audience with keywords. Think of it as an amped-up elevator pitch.
Link to your website
Some gurus teach linking to your professional Facebook page and if that’s where you prefer doing business I won’t stop you. But don’t leave the URL section blank. Think about it this way, where do you want your prospective clients to go? Send them there. I want them to go to my website so I can showcase the best of my work on a property I own and control.
Include keywords about your services
If someone is searching on Twitter for someone like you, what will they search for? Make sure those words show up in your profile in a non-spammy way. Avoid buzz words, use terms your ideal client would use, be concise, and mention the benefits of what you do.
Be clear on your location/contact info
If you work from home you may not want your address listed for the world to see, but how about your city or region? Adding your location helps potential clients discover you. And what about your contact details? Make it easy for people to get in touch, but only share what you’re comfortable with. Adding a phone number may be too much, but what about your work email address? If you want people to contact you with work, tell them how to reach you.
Now get out there and be social!
This post is an excerpt from the five-day marketing challenge. Want to get your marketing efforts organized? Take the challenge!
Remember when you were 14 years old? Remember how hard it was? Let me assure you, Grayce’s 14th year was worse. Here’s a shy, nice girl using all her energy just to keep it together when the school principle asks her a favour—carry co-student Peggy’s books to and from all her classes while she adjusts to her crutches. Grayce agrees to the task, not seeing much alternative, and is surprised when a friendship develops with the pretty, lively, now-one-legged girl.
Through 14 chapters we observe the birth, life, and death of a best friendship. We see how love can cover pain, and how prayer can make us strong. We see how telling the truth releases us from shame and takes power away from our secrets. We see how acting in kindness and obedience are scary but lead to good in the end.
Sustaining Grayce by Sandra Hare is a beautiful story you can read in an afternoon. It’s well-written and gripping. I did find it interesting how an unchurched 14-year-old had become such a master at biblical interpretation and correlation—that would be a miracle in itself—but most of the plot was engaging and believable.
If you’re looking for a sweet story about saying the important things and being vulnerable, I recommend this book.
Grayce is coping with as much stress as a fourteen-year-old can handle, and then she is asked to help Peggy, a fun-loving teen who happens to be fighting cancer. Share the laughter and heartache as Peggy and Grayce try to live normal lives amidst the craziness that swirls around them. Set in Lancaster, Pennsylvania during the late 1960’s, Sustaining Grayce explores how two girls with totally opposite religious beliefs and very different families can learn to love each other and the broken people surrounding them. Their story is a miracle made possible only by God’s sustaining grace.
Here’s how to set up your Google Maps location and take control over your search results!
Have you ever Googled yourself?
Are you happy with what you see? Are you surprised? Are you wondering if there’s a way to add that cool map thingy to the results? Then you’re in the right place. Today we’ll set up your Google Maps location and start taking back control of your Google search results. Thanks to Katt Stearns for walking me through how to set up your Google Maps location—I had no idea!
But first, why would you care about a Google Maps location if you’re a freelance-work-from-home-writer-person-who-works-in-her-pyjamas? Here’s why: Google search results. When you verify your location (and no, you don’t have to display your home address for the world to see) you control your Googleability. Want to show up when someone searches “business writers in Winnipeg”? THIS is how you do it. Or how about “social media consultant Alberta”? Yup, you can show up there too. OK, let’s do this.
What you need
You need a Gmail account, so if you don’t have one go get one. I’ll wait
You need a street address. A real one, somewhere you receive mail. This is because in order to add information into your Google listing they send you a verification code in the mail so yes, you have to do this
What you do
Go to google.ca/business (assuming you’re Canadian, adjust the dot ca for your country as needed)
Click “start now”
Fill all in the business information but select “no” to “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location” (we’ll come back to this)
Add any additional details you feel necessary and select “yes” to “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location” (coming back to this)
Enter the region and radius of your services. Yes you can choose “the world” but if you want to show up in specific location searches or areas this is how you do it so get specific
If you want your address to display in search and on your business location map then also check “I also serve customers at my business address.” If you don’t want your address displayed then leave this unchecked (told you we’d come back to this)
Click “verify now” (top right-hand corner)
Enter your details so Google can mail you a verification post card (see why you need a real address?)
Once you receive your post card (up to 10 days) start back at step one and click “verify.” Here you can enter your five-digit code and get yourself discoverable, listed, and HIRED thanks to Google search
Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business
If you’re a writer, you probably have something you want to accomplish. You know, a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG). Write a book. Make 100 per cent of your income from freelance writing. Secure year-round contract work.
So, what’s your goal?
And how long have you not been reaching it?
I don’t mean any offence, I just know from experience how those BHAGs can paralyse, overwhelm, and otherwise sabotage productivity. That is, until the BHAG is broken down into smaller, less hairy, S.M.A.R.T. goals. You know, the ones that will spark your creativity and propel you towards your dreams.
For years I’ve said I want to write a book. In an offhanded, joking sort of way. And yet for all my wanting I have 1,600 terrible words accomplished. Why? Don’t I want to write a book? Then why am I not writing it?
Because I’ve never broken down the goal into manageable steps. Daily word counts. Specific time set aside for book writing. Book plotting. Why haven’t I? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s overwhelm. Maybe insecurity. Maybe I’m waiting for someone to not only beg me to write a book but also pay me to do it.
It’s time to get real, set the goal, state it, and break it down into steps that will get me there.
Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business
Everyone agrees goal-setting is important. However, while it’s fun dreaming and thinking big, the work of it is figuring out how to achieve your goals. The best way to set goals you’ll actually work to achieve is following the S.M.A.R.T. system goal-setting model. It’s quick, straightforward, and keeps you focused on action.
Once I have my BHAG (in this example, write a book) I break down the goal into smaller, less impossible steps. You know, I make them smart. Here’s how I define S.M.A.R.T. (because there are many ways to do it). I keep things straight by applying who, what, when, why, how to the matter. If I can’t answer those questions, my goal might still be too big.
Specific—what will you do?
Here’s where you force yourself to get clear and focus in on your objective. What do you even want to do?
If my goal is write a 50,000 page book I’m going to have to figure out how to make it happen. I need to break this huge goal into smaller tasks. Maybe it’s write 750 words a day. Maybe it’s a weekly word goal. Maybe I need an outline and table of contents first. Or maybe I need my topic before I get get into writing. By breaking it down into one or several specific goals, the huge task of writing 50,000 words is all of a sudden not such a crazy idea.
Measurable—how will you know you’ve done it?
The problem (for me at least, maybe you’re totally great at writing 50,000 words or achieving any and every huge goal you have by sheer will power and determination) with huge goals is you only know you’ve achieved it once you hit your word count or whatever it is you have as your finish line. But since it’s such a massive goal you need checkpoints along the way to keep you motivated and not paralysed in overwhelm. Break your goals into smaller pieces, all building towards that huuuuuuuuge goal and you’ll see your anticipation and excitement for the task at hand grow.
When I set myself a daily or weekly word count goal I know exactly what I need to do. Once I reach the goal? I feel pretty good. In fact, I feel great. I celebrate the small wins and feel confident I’m one more step closer to reaching my huge goal. Amazing how that works.
Achievable—who will do it?
Of course, goal-setting only works when it’s actually possible to accomplish it. So when creating S.M.A.R.T. goals you do need to ask if you can achieve it. Can you? How? You might have to look deep and get real with yourself at this point. Do you have the skills you need to reach this goal? Do you have the time? Do you have the resources? Do you have the money?
For me time is always the issue. So I have to ask myself, is this what I want? For reals? Or is it a nice idea. OK then, how will I make this happen? Because “I didn’t do it because I was busy” is a nice excuse, but if I’m going to use it then I should probably give up on my BHAG because it’s not going to happen.
Relevant—why are you doing it?
At this point in the process, you need to make sure you care about the goal and that it fits with your other goals. How does this goal fit in with your other, larger, dreams? Does it drive you forward in the right direction? Does it breathe life into you?
I ask myself if the goal I’m setting is worthwhile, the right time, and a good fit with whatever else is going on in my life. Sometimes I have to set my goals aside for a time while I finish up other tasks. Sometimes I have to shelve them because I realise while it’s a nice idea and fun and stuff, it doesn’t align with my other goals. This is hard but, when done right, honest.
Time-Sensitive—when will you do it?
What’s a goal without a deadline? If your goal is open-ended it stays vague—more like a wish than something you’ll actually accomplish. And because you’ve worked so hard to make your goal specific and realistic, you should be able to commit to a deadline you’ll be able to meet without too much stress. Another bonus when setting deadlines is to keep you focused on your BHAGs and not allow the everyday, urgent, busy stuff distract you.
Once I set a target for my BHAG I find it easier to set individual deadlines when creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. When I have the big number then I deconstruct it into smaller amounts until I have something I can work with, be it a daily, weekly, or monthly goal.
With my goals set I move on to breaking them into tasks, but that’s a story for another day.
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