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Four Tips For Struggling Freelancers

So you're a freelancer - a freelance writer, photographer, wedding coordinator, plumber or even a baby-sitter. But things have not been going too well for you - the bad economy has meant that projects have dried up, there's just been more competition lately or you just haven't found as much time as you'd like to for freelance work. Interestingly, many famously successful people today - such as author Stephen King, guitar genius Jimi Hendrix and  actor Brad Pitt - started out as freelancers. Most of them got to where they are now through a combination of hard work and good luck. But they also used their smarts and positioned themselves for opportunities to come their way. If you're a struggling freelancer, here are some ideas how you can do the same:

1. Get productive. Employ productivity apps.

For freelancers, time truly is money. The more productive time you have and can spare, the more you can earn. This means that as a freelancer you need to squeeze as much time as you possibly can from your day for money-making. The best way to do this is to make sure you're as productive and efficient a person as you can. Wherever possible, make full use of technology. Take advantage of the myriad of available productivity apps - whether web or mobile - out there in the market to help you plan your time, manage your business appointments, find your way to your clients, etc. There are a ton of these apps out there; all you need is to find the right ones that meet your needs. I personally like Evernote to take down all my notes, while Remember The Milk reminds me of all the tasks I need done.

2. At all times, appear professional.

You may be a one-person operation but there's no reason why you should not appear as professional as someone who belongs to a larger, more established company. Consider using a professional sounding name, and a kickass-looking logo, for your business - imagine how impressive your proposal (and subsequent invoice) would appear to clients even though you're "just a freelancer"! Likewise, you may want to get a proper domain name for your website to host an online portfolio, and use professional email hosts, such as 123-reg, so your potential clients don't receive an email from ikillcatsandeatthem@yahoo.co.uk or clientsarestupid@gmail.com. And dress the part for meetings! Just because you work from home doesn't mean you should appear sloppy in front of prospective clients.

3. Network, network, network.

Go out and meet more people. Most, if not all, of us freelancers tend to work alone - it's just our nature. We love the freedom and independence it gives, and not having to be beholden to other people is one of the reasons why we started out in the first place! Unfortunately, after a period of time of working in a silo, we can end up with a limited worldview and stunted thinking. Our social skills can suffer. This, as you can imagine, is professionally dangerous. There are plenty of professional events and gatherings that are open to us creative sorts. You may, for example, check out if there's a Pecha Kucha or TEDx gig happening in your city. There could also be a Startup Weekend taking place sometime soon where a creative person like yourself can find like-minded individuals to put together a cool project. Not to mention, the more people we meet, the likelier we'll run into people who may one day need our skills!

4. Constantly improve your skills. Or learn a new one.

So you're in-between projects, and have plenty of time on your hands. Rather than moping about, why not put that free time - other than the time you need to set aside for sourcing leads - into good use by improving on your expertise? The truth is, no matter how much of a guru you are in your field, there's always something new to learn. If you're a freelance coder, how about picking up on that new programming  language? On the other hand, a nanny could learn CPR or lifeguard skills, which would come in extremely useful in those emergencies. Or expand your skill sets so that you have more to offer to your clients - a freelance public relations practitioner could pick up some domain knowledge about organizing events, for example. This way, you open yourself up to more job opportunities as well!   With these tips, you can be your way from struggling freelancer to raking in big money on your spare time. Good luck!

Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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