Productivity

18 tips to improve your income and wellbeing in 2019

We only need to look back for one reason.

To ask ourselves ‘What did I learn?’

All of our experiences, bad or good, have the seeds of wisdom within them. And even if you think they’re not there, they are. They’re just hidden, like seeds in a fruit.

Income and wellbeing are inextricably linked, because they both pertain to energy. With increased energy, not only are you healthier and happier, but you can also earn more.

Ready to charge your batteries for 2019? Here’s things I’ve learned.

1. Trust your gut instinct

I wrote about what mattered to me on Medium, and got featured by the editors. Not only did it generate 6.7k claps and a bit of income, it generated further paid work and people that resonated with what I shared.

2. Immerse yourself in nature as often as possible

There are ideas that can only come to you when you’re in nature. Being in nature is energising. The more beautiful your surroundings, the better. Biophilia is a trend that will grow in 2019. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the ethos of coworking space Second Home.

3. Be aware of what drains your energy

‘Where attention goes, energy flows” is not just a nice quote. It’s truth. If you are giving your attention to things that aren’t uplifting you, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Are you letting social media suck your attention, and thus your energy? The Shallows explores how the internet is literally rewiring our brains.

4. Practice the art of letting go

I broke ties with one of my oldest friends this year, and even though I love her immensely, I had to accept that we were just going in different directions. If you hold on to something that is moving away from you, you’ll lose a hell of a lot of energy. It will impact your health, happiness, and business. Let it drift if it needs to.

5. Set monthly finance goals, and track weekly for peace of mind

Relieve financial anxiety as a freelancer by setting monthly targets. Track them weekly, and if you’ve hit your target by week 3, you know you can relax or hustle a little harder to surpass it. Trust you will get there.

6. Forget the competition

If you’re too busy paying attention to what others are doing, that mental energy is being lost. Run your own race. I remember one boss who literally stood at his computer watching a video of his competitor and calling him names. Why? It’s wasted energy. Spend that time improving yourself instead.

7. Tell everyone what you are doing

For the most part, it helps to be open as possible. I spent quite a few Fridays this year working at Think NG’s Freelance Friday, where I met a lovely lady. I shared what I was doing, and she later recommended me to do a paid workshop in 2019.

8. Don’t make decisions in fear

When the work goes quiet, it’s very tempting to do that project you don’t really like but know will earn you money. Or, if you’ve not posted for a while, you could just reuse that piece of work you’re not altogether happy with, but don’t do it. Instead use the time to upskill and grow.

9. Find work that feels playful

Keep a track of your emotion logs, like my friend Sam Chillcott. Notice when you feel elevated, and when you internally shout ‘yeah!’ That’s an indication of where you need to go. Excitement is energy. You want to do things that fill you with genuine excitement, and even if you’re not making a living from them yet, try to move yourself in that direction.

10. Use music to boost your productivity

Music is a well known energiser. It also has physical health benefits, and The Sync Project are exploring it’s effects with a large research study. Skeptical? You don’t have to listen to music whilst you’re working if it distracts you. Just by blasting out a tune before you work can help (I love this).

11. Start your day with positivity

As Benjamin Hardy suggests, getting yourself into a ‘peak state’ is advised. It helps set the tone for the day. Whatever uplifts you, whatever you need to get you into a place of calmness, focus, and energy. I’m not religious, but I start my day with Joel — he gives me a pep talk every morning.

12. Skill swap with other entrepreneurs

Utilise your network — is there a way you can help each other to further your impact in the world? This year, I did some marketing in return for some life coaching. Build your tribe. Help your friends.

13. Change your environment for increased creativity

This year, I spent three months in sunny Las Palmas, where I got to meet a lot of inspiring people. The difference it made to my mood and productivity was enormous. I was about 100 x more productive when I got home.

14. Be intentional about solitude for new ideas and learnings

I’m in praise of solitude. Like being immersed with new people and new environments, solitude has its own merits for creativity, learning, and reflection. Ideally, think of connection like a tide, or breathing — sometimes you’re around others, the next, you’re alone. That way you stay in balance.

15. Be helpful, even if you’re not getting paid

When I was working at the Freelance Friday, helping my friend and fearless kayaker Sally Montgomery, I didn’t begrudge giving her pro bono advice even though I was supposed to be working. Doing that led me to start consulting sessions, and within an hour of posting it on Twitter I had my first client.

16Work with nature’s rhythms

You can’t force a water tap to fill a cup quickly if there’s only a dribble coming out. Likewise, you can’t expect yourself to be on fire in your business if you’re feeling tired. Don’t push if there’s no energy there. I’ve learned that our bodies, especially women’s bodies, go through a subtle energetic process relating to our cycles — we naturally have more energy around ovulation. Schedule your thinking time for then, and your days off for the ‘winter’ of menstruation.

17. Try as many income streams as possible

The internet is your oyster! There’s nothing you can’t do, with enough knowledge and research. Test the waters, and so what if it doesn’t work out? You can freelance, get a remote job, write a book, create a product, become a youtuber, create a course, do matched betting, be a user tester, do dropshipping — the possibilities for location independence are endless. One will be a perfect fit for you.

18. Don’t underestimate REST

I don’t just mean sleep. I mean full, conscious REST. Apart from going to sleep, do you have moments when you consciously relax your body to the deepest state possible, not focusing on anything else? R.E.S.T therapy is an actual thing, coined by the researchers of sensory deprivation tanks. I’m a fan of those. But when I can’t get there, I utilise the wonderful Meditations by Rasa. When it comes to meditation, go deep. You’ll be energised.

In Praise Of Solitude

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There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely

It was a Saturday Night. I’d been reading famous quotes on solitude, as I was writing an article on silence (I know, so rock n’ roll).

Solitude was praised by Mother Teresa, Nikola Tesla, Antony Burgess, Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka and many more interesting people.

Then I googled ‘solitude’. The very first result from Wikipedia, highlighted in a little black box, rather perturbed me.

“Solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation, i.e., lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, loss of loved ones, deliberate choice, infectious disease, mental disorders, neurological disorders or circumstances of employment or situation.” — Wikipedia.

Wait a minute. This all seems… pretty bad.

I’ve just read that solitude was the answer from some of life’s most brilliant minds:

“The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion; free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone — that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.” ~ Nikola Tesla

“People who do a job that claims to be creative have to be alone to recharge their batteries. You can’t live 24 hours a day in the spotlight and remain creative. For people like me, solitude is a victory.” 
― Karl Lagerfeld

Not to mention the recent research that solitude can make you more successful.

Maybe we’re confusing solitude with the feeling of loneliness. It is one thing to be on your own voluntarily, taking breaks away from family, friends and the world, and quite another to be isolated.

I’ve recently moved into a flat on my own. At first, I was gripped with thoughts such as ‘ugh, this is horrible! So lonely!’ but then after a time it was replaced by a feeling of beautiful serenity.

The shift that happened?

Well, for the first week I was distracted. I focused exclusively outside myself — the tasks I had to complete, work I had to do. I was on autopilot.

But after about a week, I mentally dropped the ball and just sat ‘with myself’. It’s an awareness of the present moment, a connection with it that you just don’t get when you’re lonely. It then became incredibly enjoyable.

Perhaps loneliness is sort of a disconnection from others and also from yourself — whereas with solitude, you’re actively staying present with your own company.

Maybe loneliness can come from being somehow estranged from your connection to your own thoughts and feelings, your dreams, your hopes, your desires.

Because even if you’re surrounded by people, you still can be lonely. In fact, if you’re surrounded by people all the time, it can be incredibly hard to hear what your inner voice is saying — it’s been drowned out all your life.

So I’m in praise of solitude. It’s a truly enriching experience for those who want to fully embrace it.

Solitude can be an intentional experience. The intention is not about removing yourself from people and positive relationships, but for giving yourself moments when it’s just you and the universe.

When embracing solitude, it can be like taking a bath in the waters of silence. You dissipate into the present moment. There is sometimes no sense of ‘I’, especially in nature when moments of solitude can be so serenely beautiful.

If I was a newbie wanting to explore solitude, I might have thought twice if I’d read about it on Wikipedia or Google.

Solitude shouldn’t be terrifying. And if it is, what does that say about ourselves?

This article was first published on Medium.com

The Emotional Side of Freelancing

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There are so many articles out there about how to get freelancing right, and there is so much to think about: the invoicing, the client communication, the hustle, the accounts, and more.

What I have learned in three years of working as a freelancer is that it can be an emotional rollercoaster, too. Just like an actual rollercoaster, freelancing can be immensely thrilling, exciting, and sometimes can make you feel a little bit sick. Without management or HR to review your work, and without a regular salary in place or colleagues to bounce ideas off of, those dips and twists in your work life can throw you emotionally if you don’t know how to handle them.

Yet, despite the rollercoaster, working as a freelancer has helped me become more emotionally stable. As a freelancer, I am my business. This means I have to stay grounded, consistent, and calm as I go about my work. I have also needed to develop and maintain a steady sense of peace, because freelancing, by nature, can be so uncertain and unstable.

I have always wanted to work for myself, and that, so far, has meant tackling every issue that has annoyed me about jobs I’ve had in the past. I’ve had many stomach-churning moments in this process, and have experienced a lot of positive moments and accomplishments as well. The positives make the lifestyle worth it, and how you deal with the stomach-churning moments — let’s call them dips — ultimately determine the success of your business. Here are some of the dips I have seen come up pretty regularly in my experience as a freelancer:

When the work (seems like) it’s drying up

I have noticed that freelance work often comes in cycles and correlates pretty heavily with your mindset. Panicking about paying the bills and the fact that no one you reach out to with ideas seems to be getting back in touch just won’t help you. I have learned to embrace the fact that I experience cycles of really busy periods, along with bouts of time when things feel a bit quieter, or when contracts naturally come to an end.

When work dries up, you need to remind yourself why you started. Did you want to work for just one person, on a never-ending, boring business? Of course not! You like the variety freelancing brings because it means you get to work on lots of small projects. Sometimes these last six months, and sometimes they don’t — that’s a good thing.

Don’t be afraid when things feel stagnant — maybe it just means that it’s time to get creative and go to the next level.

Plus, you love the thrill of the hustle! As a freelancer, love of the hustle is part of your nature. Whether you’re sending out proposals or chasing down projects, you can’t let the uncertainty behind the hustle destabilize you emotionally. I’ve realized that, though it may feel a little scary to get back on the saddle after enjoying a nice six to eight months of steady income, you have to remind yourself that looking for new opportunities helps you grow. I like to think about the hustle that comes from periods where I’m low on work like walking into a sweet shop. There, I get to look through a variety of options and search for exactly what will feel tasty and satisfying.

Don’t be afraid when you’re tested like this and things feel stagnant — maybe it just means that it’s time to get creative and go to the next level.

When you start to feel lonely

As a remote freelancer, sometimes you get lonely. Sure, you may be surrounded by other great freelancers if you’re part of a co-working space, or have more leniency in your schedule to meet friends for coffee, but when it comes to running your business, you’re on your own.

My advice? Get help when you can.

Realize that no man is an island. The beauty of living in today’s world is that there is an answer to every problem you have, including lack of community. You just have to find that answer.

Here’s the positive angle on difficult clients: They can build your emotional resilience.

I’ve also learned that loneliness can often come when you’re not focusing your efforts on the right things. Maybe you feel alienated because the work just isn’t the right fit for you, and does not engage you enough to be a real stepping stone on your journey.

Ultimately, we’re all learning about ourselves, so practicing patience with yourself is something that you’ll definitely get tested on as a freelancer. Try to find and build community wherever you can.

Dealing with difficult clients

These can come in all shapes and sizes. Some examples of difficult clients include those who are unresponsive whenever you reach out, some that just don’t seem happy with your work (regardless of how many edits or changes you make), or others who are simply taking advantage of you and have not yet paid you.

Here’s the positive angle on difficult clients: They can build your emotional resilience. Thankfully, I now rarely deal with them, because I’ve learned to be very careful about who I work with, but I do find it interesting how we can often attract clients who, unintentionally, may help us resolve an area of growth we may need.

Once, for example, I got burned when I was asked to do a fairly large package of copywriting work for a brand’s birthday campaign. Time was of the essence, and I delivered a newsletter, promo copy, emails, and some product descriptions over the course of a few days.

It is easy to put the client on a pedestal and to put yourself underneath that pedestal. But it doesn’t have to be like this, even if you’re a new freelancer.

I had asked for a deposit up front, but as the launch of the brand was “imminent,” (or so I was led to believe), I let it go when the company didn’t pay me immediately. Surprise, surprise: To this day I still have not been paid and the brand itself has gone AWOL.

This was the first time something like this happened to me, but it was a good test and helped me shape aspects of my work, including my boundaries, what I should and will insist upon, and what I decide is acceptable for me as a business owner.

Many freelancers can make mistakes like this when they start out, simply due to a lack of confidence. It is easy to put the client on a pedestal and to put yourself underneath that pedestal. But it doesn’t have to be like this, even if you’re a new freelancer. Learn not to let others take advantage of you. Holding your own when it comes to dips like these can ultimately make you stronger.

Marketing yourself

Ironic as it may sound, though I am a marketer, I really do not enjoy marketing myself. I don’t mind sharing my articles, but I don’t want to become a sales channel on social media for my business. It doesn’t feel right to me — I’d rather just use my platforms to share what I am interested in, and be myself rather than pushing “a brand.” Branding myself feels too confining.

As a freelancer, you are allowed to have a wide range of interests and skills and to use your social media to promote them. I have learned that, by being a little more personal and focusing away from pushing a brand, you may connect with the types of people you want to work with anyway.

Freelancing brings an extraordinary sense of empowerment and freedom. You alone are responsible for shaping your destiny.

I recently had a consulting client that contacted me with the following message: “I wasn’t familiar with you before today, but after looking at a few of your tweets I think we might have a few interests in common (I am a Manc with a fondness for raving and healthy living!)”

This message shows me that sharing my interests on social media enabled me to connect with a potential client who was on my wavelength, and who I felt that I could actually help. Yes, I do want to work with people that like raving and healthy living (and no, the two are not mutually exclusive!)

If someone does not seem to understand you, on the other hand, they are not your client. This is something that has taken me a long time to grasp, after working with lots of people who really weren’t the right fit for me. That’s okay, because there have been plenty of others who were.

I’ve spoken about the dips, but what about the highs? And yes, there are many — I wouldn’t have stuck it out as a freelancer this long if not. Along with the benefits of working remotely I’ve written about before, freelancing brings an extraordinary sense of empowerment and freedom. You alone are responsible for shaping your destiny.

Did you earn £4k this month? That was all you. Did you get a positive testimonial? That’s awesome — your communication style is working, and you’re building relationships. Is your brain bursting with ideas, and suddenly you want to write? Great! This means your creativity is being sparked.

So go for it, embrace the rollercoaster ride and the highs and the lows that come with it. Use each positive and negative experience to build emotional resilience and stability. Freelancing can be an emotional journey, but it doesn’t have to own you. Ultimately, it can be a journey where you’ll truly learn about yourself, and realize that you’re capable of more than you ever thought.