Category Archives: freelance 101

the freelance life : karma is going to get you …

illustration by the talented Joanna Pop …
(welcome to the blog Joanna!)

This past weekend, I got to spend time with one of my artists during a drive out to the west end and our conversations are never boring. We speak about it all, from personal to professional. We laugh, we vent … we have yet to cry in front of each other … but you get the idea.

Usually, our conversations visit professional mishaps and obstacles and this artist mentioned that she has yet to be paid for certain jobs where she has completed services. She isn’t alone, it’s happened to many, me included. I am flabbergasted that the non-paying clients/colleague/people in question wasn’t/isn’t/aren’t mortified or embarrassed enough to see that overdue payments are a serious issue.

Now, I cannot tell you how her story ends, as I don’t know … I’m not even sure it’s been resolved yet. But what I can tell you is that I believe in karma.

You’re probably wondering what karma has to do with the story above … here it is:

I believe in karma.
And I believe that what you put out into the world is what you get back.
Karma.

As a freelancer, it’s easy to justify any action you take – good or bad – as part of the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, career building, getting ahead, and the freelance life. But just because you can justify it, doesn’t mean its right.

I’ve heard my share of stories :

  • the artist who refuses to let new up and comers to shadow her because she doesn’t want to help foster potential competition. bad karma : in an industry where your colleagues are quick to refer their peers when they are unavailable to take on a client, said artist gets shut out since goodwill is a two way street. She refuses to help others . Why would they send her business?
  • the artist who claims she can do hair in order to land the job. bad karma : she lands a big photoshoot but cannot create the hairstyle requested nor does she have the proper tools only to disappoint the photography team, model and client whom hired her … that’s like three bad karma returns. Needless to say, she was never booked again by that client.
  • the artist who books herself back to back to back without regarding time, location, and accessibility to each gig in order to earn more. bad karma : after being late to all bookings but the very first one for the day, bad reviews on popular sites like Yelp or even Twitter followed.

I think its important, as creative and success-driven individuals, that we treat everyone we come across with respect and humbleness (totally not sure if that’s an actual word, but I’m going with it!). Each action you take will impact the future of not only yourself but others. Therefore, your everyday goal is to start and complete every action you take with good intentions.

As a freelancer, here are some Karma and Business 101 Rules I tend to live by.

  • be helpful and be grateful
  • share your knowledge with others
  • pay it forward when you can

Going back to my story above, I remember saying to my artiend (artist+friend) that I believe BlushPretty grew on karma. The really good kind.  By being positive, respectful, and appreciative in all (positive and negative) situations presented to me as bp grew, I think I managed to build a positive growing business that I am really proud of.

When she turned to me and said “I believe that …” I smiled large.

I’m very happy I’m not the only person that believes that Karma rules.

Remember, everything you put out there, comes back …

-s-

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the freelance life : blogging versus micro-blogging (or barely blogging) …

What I love about working with my team and being surrounded by talented artists is that it constantly has me thinking on an entrepreneurial tip. I guarantee you that the bp team is a very supportive and nurturing collective, so often times we turn to one another for tips, tricks and words of advice. And from there grows interesting conversations and ideas.

Today, I had a conversation via email with one of our talented MUA/HA and the topic of not being able to find the time to blog or update her website came up. I’m pretty sure many freelancers/entrepreneurs run into this problem – finding the time to properly market ourselves through our online presence, namely a blog.

I myself know that when I first started bp, I started my blog as a way to advertise and get my name out there. Ten years ago, it was popular to create your business through a blog – it made it really easy for small businesses and entrepreneurs to have a presence and the visual of a “website”. It was easy and quick to do … and fun! So that’s what I did.

Fast forward five years (or six, seven, eight) and trying to maintain the admin side of a growing business, actually getting our there to provide my services to a growing clientele, plus kids, home, family, life, etc … and blogging started to take a back seat to all the other things that running a business and raising a family/living life required. And the fear was/is : “if I’m not blogging … then I’m not marketing myself!  How are people going to learn about me?”

I bet me (and my colleague) aren’t the only ones who think/fear this, right?

Well, here’s the great news freelancers … there are other ways to promote yourself online even if you cannot find the time to blog. So don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t blogging all seven days out of the week.

When things started to really grow at bp, finding a moment to blog started to suffer. But I knew that my brand didn’t have to suffer with it. Here’s what I have come to learn in the past two/three years:

  • micro-blogging is just as effective : Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and everyone’s darling, Instagram.  Our clientele – brides – are inundated with more information than ever. They no longer have the time to truly read through blogs and reviews and immerse themselves in more information that doesn’t pertain to what they need.  Most of the time they will rely on a referral from a colleague or friend, but when they actually visit the website to review our work (or to your website for yours), they are looking for quick visuals, maybe stop at a blurb or two from a short post, and that’s about it. They aren’t necessary going to read through a post last week about what’s in my makeup bag. No. They want to see a few recent images of past clientele and find a contact email or phone number. With that in mind, Twitter is great for sharing quick tips and tricks and engaging with other industry vendors who won’t hesitate to refer you; Facebook is great for sharing your promos and reaching your specific audience or clientele with short and sweet status updates; Pinterest is great for inspiring brides with your expertise by creating beautifully organized albums of your work; and Instagram is the tool to use for documenting your day to day happenings – so that they know you are the real deal. All of these you can do from your phone (so easy!) and you still maintain an online presence.
  • you can still blog, just not everyday : OMG … you didn’t blog on Tuesday. OMG! What are you going to do?!?!? Clients are going to stop calling (no they won’t); that bride you ran a trial run with yesterday isn’t going to book (that won’t happen); and your name will disappear off Google forever and ever (okay, seriously – no).  Well, you know what you are going to do? You’re going to blog on Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or maybe even … *gasp* … next week. You’re going to blog when you have time. While I don’t recommend going radio silent for a month or even two weeks, I also don’t think your freelance life is going to suffer if you can only find the time to do two posts a week. Aim to blog regularly enough that your name still pops up in a Google search and your website stays current, but also just enough that you feel comfortable, in control and not stressed. Just so you know – a client isn’t going to notice that you missed a day or two. Bottom line : don’t stress out over a blog and a missed post. Just. Don’t.
  • learn to communicate, personally : You know what clients like even more than your blog? Talking to you directly. I’m not even making that up. For serious. I heard once, that having an awesome email conversation or phone call with a potential client works wonders for growing your business and getting your name out there. No lie!  Okay, okay – enough of my sarcasm. Really though, a great blog might warm a client to you and spark interest in your services, but what truly makes them choose you is how they connect with you one on one. Replying to a tweet on Twitter, or taking the opportunity to respond to an FB comment they left on your business page or in your inbox is going to do wonders for you. I have had clients whip through a photo album on Facebook and message us privately to inquire about our services. All it took was a moment for me  to respond and engage them and boom : we got booked. Some of them never even visited the blog!
Alright, so there you go – your online presence doesn’t have to suffer because you aren’t blogging. Yes, blogging is fun and cheers to those who do find the time to work on their blog regularly. But like I said  – don’t stress over it because your brand isn’t going to suffer as long as you can incorporate into your routine some of the other fabulous online, micro-blogging platforms. Such platforms require a few clicks from your phone or tablet and can be done within two minutes! Everybody is on Facebook, everybody is on Instagram and so on. A status update a day (or two) will keep your name on everyone’s perfectly painted lips … trust me.

Have a great week freelancers!

-s-

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the freelance life : hello, my name is … (pt. 2)

Back in January, I shared with you my thoughts on consultations with clients. I’m sure there are plenty of freelancers out there who may disagree with “giving away their time”, and that’s fine … to each their own … but I do hope I shed some light on the fact that as a service-oriented provider, we need to bring value to the client.

Now I had teased, that there would be a Part Deux to that post … and here it is – the “how-to” when meeting with a client. Of course, my advice leans toward working with brides, but I am sure some of the suggestions can translate into other fields.

Meet when and where convenient for the both of you : I knew someone who would pretend they couldn’t meet on the client’s first and second date options to give the illusion that they didn’t have time to meet and were too busy fielding other clients, even though option one and/or two made more sense when it came to their schedule and whereabouts. Listen to how stupid that sounds. You rather disrupt your own schedule and inconvenience yourself to “impress”  a  potential client. The client already knows your good – that’s why they came to you in the first place.  Let your work ethic and achievements impress the client – not fake “busy-ness”. In addition, meet at the place or venue accessible to both. If they want to come to your office, then let them, that’s what you have an office for right? If they were hoping you can meet them in their home, and really, its no skin off your back – don’t say no! Starbucks near their workplace works best for all, go for it … and get yourself a brownie while you’re there. Yum!

Be prepared : The client wants to learn more about you, your style, your work … and ensure you’re not some crazy (fair enough!). Be prepared to list off your top achievements, to show your best work, and to answer why you are the right choice for them. I created both a bridal and editorial album in iPhoto that I keep on my trusty iPad and update  it regularly. If the client wants to see more of my work then what I have previously sent to them, it’s right there. I have a mental rolodex of where I’ve been published that I can recite to the bride if she asks. Same with the names of my favourite vendors should the bride ask if I “know anyone …” or who I have worked with previously. If you’re pulled together during the consultation, you’re letting the client know you’ll be on your A-game come the big day.

Listen, discuss, and suggest : This might be your 100th bridal client, but this will be your client’s first wedding (in most cases). You are definitely allowed to provide your knowledge and expertise, but the key is too listen to what they want and need – not to impart all of your judgment and call it a day. For example, I have a binder filled with magazine covers, specifically from Allure (great close-ups!!). When a client tells me they want smokey dramatic eyes, I don’t automatically register what I think smokey, dramatic eyes are. Instead, we start flipping through the binder and I point out what I’m thinking she means while asking her what SHE thinks it is. Depending on her choices, we can discuss what will work and not work, and I can suggest what we might need to add or subtract from the look based on my knowledge and experience. I also help the client to imagine the flow of her day – outlining a possible schedule, what to prepare, and most importantly I bring to mind potential obstacles (like the four aunties from out of town who all of a sudden want makeup and hair too) and how my team and I can help her resolve them.

Provide options and finish with the possibility to discuss more : Answer this – you hate the hard sale and pressure tactics for big purchases, right? What makes you think your client loves it and can’t wait for you to do it to them? Never insist that a client leaves your consultation with a firm booking or be in a huff if they don’t sign on the dotted line. Let everything you discussed sink in, give your clients time to think more, and let them breathe. Give them the option to call or email back with more questions. Chances are, the less you push the more likely they are to come back and book you in. Don’t be a stage five clinger. Or a stalker. It’s okay to send a follow-up email a few days later, but don’t hover. And here’s a final thought : if you conducted your initial communications and consultation properly, chances are they won’t leave your meeting without wanting to book your services anyway …

Again, the above is probably common sense to most and basic for the most part … but I hope it still helps.

Happy Monday people! Enjoy the rest of your week!

-s-

 

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the freelance life : hello, my name is … ( pt. 1 )

One of the things I think gets any freelance artist nervous beyond words, no matter how seasoned they are, is the consultation – not the trial run – the consultation. ( Side : if you are a freelance artist not willing to meet a client for a complimentary consultation because you aren’t getting paid for it, well … you should rethink that choice … ).

In an age of emails, Facebook / Twitter direct messaging, and form pages on a website, the art of communicating … really communicating … with a potential client is essential to placing you above the rest of the freelancers they are currently shopping.

Being a freelancer is like dating. Period. Consider the consultation as the initial meet up or the coffee date before the big first dinner date ( which in BlushPretty’s world could be the trial run, the beauty event itself, the wedding day … you get what I’m saying ). It’s the chance for both the freelancer and the client to make sure they mesh before dedicating any more of their time to each other. After all, if sparks aren’t going to fly at the coffee date … why would you sit and suffer through a movie and a dinner and a quiet drive home?! The consultation is a way of respecting each other’s time by not wasting any of it.

The consultation is the perfect opportunity to suss out some key details before agreeing to the larger project/event at hand and freelancers should use it as a means to assess the following:

what the client truly needs from you : an introductory email provides the key details but sometimes they need fleshing out. And yes, follow-up emails can do that but words, phrases, and statements can often be read two ways or remain unclear. Face to face communication will allow you to really read each other and understand what is being requested, and also, to ask questions and discover new pieces of information that didn’t seem relevant at first … but proved otherwise.

what the client thinks of your work : while images of your work can be found online in your gallery, showing your client your work IRL (i’m so on top of the short form) allows you to explain to them your work in detail and the concept behind each project / look. Every client is different, so even though a completed project in your portfolio was deemed awesome by the client who commissioned you for it, your new potential client might feel it’s not their cup of tea. If that’s the case, you can show them a whole new side to that project and speak to them about the techniques you used, how you learned from it, and how you can take that experience to better help them. This is so much better than letting them create judgement on the image/project alone.

what the client expects of you : so to backtrack a bit, yes, I relate the consultation to dating … but it doesn’t mean you and the client are exactly equals. The consultation is where the client will let you know the W5H and more of what they are looking for and what they expect of you, your brand, your team, or your company. While you have every right to say no to a client if the fit isn’t right, your job at the consultation is too listen to them and make mental notes on what you can and cannot provide.

I know that the above is common sense to most savvy entrepreneurs and freelancers out there, but its funny how when building your career hits full speed, you forget the importance of treating each client with the proper respect they deserve. The consultation is the first step is showing them respect.

Now this is only the half of it when it comes to successful consultations with clients … I have plenty more to say about how to conduct a consultation that I want to share with you but …you’re going to have to wait!

Thanks for reading up on the blog today, and I promise you, Part 2 will come soon!

Have a great week everyone,
-s- 

Posted in freelance 101, stephanie-isms, the makeup artist life | 1 Comment

the freelance life : building bridges …

One of the things that I learned in the past ten years is that a strong network is the key to success. Now, re-read that sentence … I said “strong”. Not “vast”.

Yes, a vast network is the sign of being “connected” but it doesn’t necessarily mean those connections are solid, useful, or effective. It just means you hand out your business card a lot. A strong network can be vast, but it’s also filled with contacts that you have “relationships” with. Building relationships takes three things : time, communication, and respect.

When I had first started out taking my sideline job to a full-time business, I remember reaching out to this one brand. I was very green and very new to the whole scene, but I was trying my hardest. This particular contact, while responsive to my initial email, refused to meet me halfway on a couple of collaborations (like the guidelines of being a vendor at The Beauty Board which believe me, is not that taxing for a vendor) and in the end, the connection between us fizzled within a week or two of emails and calls. I was okay with that.

I never spoke or crossed paths with the company again. As in radio silence.

Fast forward about four years later, and I received a message from this same company that read along the lines of : “I’m so happy to see how much you have grown, perhaps now is the time for us to chat because I think I can use you for some ideas …”. I never responded to that message but received a follow-up call the following day where the person started with “I’m so proud of you …”.

While the idea that we could collaborate is very flattering, I have to say, pretending like four years didn’t pass and pretending that you had been there cheering on my growth every step of the way was … off-putting. Almost … insulting. I mean … now that I have grown, I’m worth your time to chat with?

You might think I’m being a bit of a sore sport, but here is how I see it : you cannot walk across a bridge that you haven’t built … or that is stable.

A network is built with so many different things : sharing ideas, supporting one another, developing collaborations, and passing along referrals … and this begins from the moment you meet and progresses as the years pass. It’s maintaining casual contact, whether via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or doing it the old fashion way: meeting for a cup of coffee … even if only twice a year. This is a good rule of thumb to follow, especially when you meet an interesting contact that you may not be able to collaborate with in the immediate future but perhaps, just maybe, down the road.

If you happen to be growing your freelance life in 2014, here’s a task to tackle as the clock strikes midnight: maximize and strengthen your contact list. It’s really simple to do :

  • Start by deleting old contacts or contacts that you don’t even recognize. They are just taking up space.
  • Update your regular contacts and fill their contact with as much information as possible. Use the “notes” section to jot down key events or strengths about that contact – birthdays, anniversaries, collaborations, media mentions, etc.
  • Identify contacts that are not regular but are not unrecognizable/old either. If you are interested in maintaining and building that relationship, make a note and remind yourself to do two things: extend a friendly “poke” to reestablish connection (invite to coffee, an email checking in just to say “hi”) and to check their social media profiles every now and then to comment, like, share, or even congratulate them on various successes.
  • For all new contacts, add them to your contact list as soon as possible, and stay in touch …

Failing to maintain a casual and respectful connection with a new contact, and then reaching out to them years later with a big request off the bat signals one thing, even if it isn’t your intention : you’re using them … and to your benefit only. And nobody likes that guy …

Anyway … I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I like writing up the Freelance 101 posts. My brain is filled with all the potential metaphors that I wanted to use today, so why not share?? To drill it home :

  • You can’t go 10% and expect the other person to go 90%.
  • Your network is like a garden. You need to tend to it everyday with water and sunlight and only then can you enjoy the fruits of your labour.
  • As they say, at least buy a girl a drink first … maybe even dinner!

Have a great week everyone!

-s-

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